Showman’s heart ‘could have gone at any time’ inquest hears after drug-related death at Abergele hotel

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Court Reporter

A showman whose death was found to be drug-related died before knowing he had a serious health condition, an inquest heard.

John James de-Koning, 54, of Stansty Park, Wrexham, died after collapsing in a locked cubicle in the men’s toilets at The Kinmel Hotel in Abergele on February 23.

Mr de-Koning, who was a showman by occupation and owner of Grand Prix Dodgems, was attending a family party.

His death was certified at 10.50am but at an inquest held in Ruthin yesterday, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central Nicola Jones said “clearly he died well before that”.

Mr de-Koning had been found when some of his family and friends realised he had not returned to his room and carried out a search. He was last seen at about 3am.

The ambulance service confirmed he had been dead for some time when they arrived.

A post-mortem examination was carried out by Dr Mark Atkinson, consultant pathologist at Glan Clwyd on February 27 after the “sudden death” of Mr de-Koning.

Dr Atkinson found evidence of severe coronary artery atheroma as the right artery was occluded by 90 per cent and the left was 80 per cent occluded. Mrs Jones said he had not had a heart attack prior to his death but “the occlusion puts pressure on the whole system” and “it doesn’t take much to top a heart like that into a fatal situation”.

She added: “This is a heart that could have gone at any time.”

A toxicology report showed there was cocaine in Mr de-Koning’s system at 0.97 milligrams.

Mrs Jones confirmed a toxic reading would be anything up to 5 milligrams and the concentration of cocaine found was “very high” in this instance.

The report also showed alcohol at a level of 101 milligrams.

She said: “He could just have died from the cocaine on its own. Had he not taken this drug he may have died because of the heart condition.”

Dr Atkinson found the medical cause of death to be stenotic coronary artery atheroma, with the combination of cocaine and alcohol being a contributing factor.

The inquest heard Mr de-Koning had been complaining of a chest infection to his family but did not appear ill or have any major complaints about feeling unwell on February 23.

His brother, Jan de-Koning, asked the assistant coroner if this would have been picked up by his GP as he had been having tests and was awaiting cardiology results.

Mrs Jones said: “He was so far advanced I just wonder if he was minimising what was going on and not wanting to make much of a fuss.

“They didn’t get to the root of the problem in time,” she added.

“I’m not saying they were too slow but he didn’t get that diagnosis in time.”

Mr de-Koning would have had results from the cardiology tests before the end of February.

Mrs Jones told the family Mr de-Koning must have been “as tough as old boots” and “didn’t complain quite enough” prior to his death.

She said there is “no shame” in the way he died “so young without being diagnosed”.

Concluding the inquest, she added: “The problem I have got here is that this could have been a natural causes death but it was pushed forward by this contributing factor [of the drugs found in his system]. His death was drug related because of that.

“He could have lived long enough to get his diangosis.

“Cocaine is our biggest drug killer at the moment. And alcohol is a bigger killer than drugs.”

Speaking at the time of his brother’s death, Jan de-Koning said the father-of-two was a “family man” and he will remember him for “always liking a good laugh”.

Jan de-Koning added: “He had a good sense of humour. He was a bit of a gentle giant.”

Mr de-Koning is survived by his wife Tamara, 48, son James, 11, and daughters Ava, 16, and Scarlet, seven, who were “devastated” when he died.

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