Father bears no ill will over son’s untimely death

PUBLISHED: 08:17 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 08:17 28 February 2013

William Phillips. Photo: Denise Bradley

William Phillips. Photo: Denise Bradley

Archant © 2007

The father of a 34-year-old Norwich man who died after being involved in an altercation with a cyclist, said he bore “no ill will” towards the other person.

William Phillips, of Derby Street, was found dead at his home by his mother on Friday, July 20 – two days after he was involved in the altercation, outside the doctors’ surgery in Oak Street, off St Crispins Road.

Mr Phillips, who had a rare neurological condition which meant he had an unsteady gait and often appeared to be drunk, fell to the floor and hit his head, at around 8.50am on Wednesday, July 18.

He received initial treatment at the Oak Street surgery and, after vomiting, was then taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, before being released the same day.

Police investigated the circumstances leading to Mr Phillips’ death and arrested Luke Howard, then 22, 10 days after the argument – but dismissed the charges in September.

In police interview, Mr Howard, who was not at the inquest, denied pushing Mr Phillips, but accepted they had “come together”. The inquest heard that Mr Phillips was walking in the road when Mr Howard cycled towards him.

Mr Howard had to cycle round Mr Phillips and told him to “get on the path”, but Mr Phillips swore at him, and Mr Howard stopped and approached him.

Mr Howard said that Mr Phillips put his arms or hands on his chest, but he denied pushing him. Mr Howard handed himself in to police when he heard on the radio that police were looking for a cyclist involved in an altercation.

An eyewitness had previously told the two-day inquest in Norwich that Mr Howard had pushed Mr Phillips “not violently, as if to say ‘keep away’,” before Mr Phillips seemed to lose his balance and fall.

Norfolk’s assistant deputy coroner, David Osborne, recorded a narrative verdict, outlining the circumstances of Mr Phillips’ death.

He also said he would write to the hospital calling for all ambulance records and other medical reports a patient arrived with at A&E to be seen by the doctor undertaking the assessment, particularly in connection with a head injury. And for A&E staff to be reminded of the guidelines on observation and the need for further assessments to be made regarding whether CT scans are carried out, which did not happen in this case.

Afterwards, Peter Phillips, William’s father, said he bore no ill will towards Luke Howard, and said his son’s condition, which sometimes caused him to be verbally agressive, was known to people in the city centre, where people looked out for him, but he was out of his comfort zone in Oak Street.

He added that he had spoken to the hospital’s representative at the inquest about two other matters, which were not mentioned by the coroner.

He said: “One was that when William was released from the hospital to go home in a taxi he said he lived with his mother, which he didn’t.

“That was not checked up on. In fact, he lived on his own, so he was left to die on his own without any help. And he twice requested absolutely necessary medication, at the surgery and in the ambulance, which would have affected his ability to judge his condition; he would not have had a clue how he felt, without that medication.”

Mr Phillips had adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare condition similar to multiple sclerosis, and the cause of death was given as an acute subdural hamatoma and head injury suffered between 36 and 48 hours before his death.

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