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Father-of-eight was 'loving and stable' dad

PUBLISHED: 16:58 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 04 May 2019

John Riley. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Riley family

John Riley. PHOTO: Courtesy of the Riley family

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A father-of-eight died after accidentally overdosing on painkillers to treat severe leg pain.

John Riley was taken to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston after being found on a bench in Station Square in Lowestoft on September 21.

Passers-by tried to carry out CPR on the 51-year-old before paramedics resuscitated him, having arrived three minutes and 13 seconds after they were called.

After his death the following day, emotional tributes were left on the bench in the town, including a football shirt for his beloved Celtic FC.

At an inquest into his death on Tuesday, April 30, senior coroner Nigel Parsley concluded Mr Riley died a drug-related death after misjuding the amount of legal painkiller to use.

A toxicology report revealed no illegal drugs were found in his blood at the time of his death.

Speaking at the inquest, Donna Riley-Taylor, Mr Riley's eldest child, said: “My dad was born in Glasgow to Edward and Margaret Riley on June 16 1967. He was one of five children brought up in Rhymer Street and had a happy, loving upbringing.

“He loved football and played with his younger brother Michael. Apparently he was very good and he could have turned professional. He supported Celtic and followed them everywhere. He also liked to go fishing with his dad and he went to the local canal most days.

“When my dad was 15, he met my mother Margaret Romeo, and they had me in 1984 and married in 1985 at 16 years old. They went on to have Michelle in 1985, John in 1987 and Anthony in 1989.

“We all had a very good childhood and we had everything we ever wanted. Our family wasn't perfect but we had love and stability. Our mum and dad didn't go out, they didn't drink, and everything they did was for us four children.

“In 1998, my mum and dad decided we were moving to Lowestoft as my mum's family lived there.

“We would all go there for summer holidays and we all loved it there. Little did we know it was going to destroy our family unit.

“My dad started running a local pub and things started going downhill. He started drinking more often and my mum was devastated to find out he was having an affair with a younger lady she knew.

“My mum waited unitl my dad was asleep and she made us four kids pack as many clothes in our bags as we could and we all left and got on a train back to Glasgow.

“She never stopped us kids from seeing him as he was a good dad and would never hurt us, so we were all back and forth between our mum's and my dad's.

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“His new partner fell pregnant with twins in 2000..

“My dad started losing weight and acting differently. We knew he was taking drugs but he got off it with help and on methadone.

“In 2005 our mother committed suicide and our lives were torn apart. We needed our dad more than ever but he was back on drugs and more than before.

“His family in Glasgow knew he was doing it to block everything out because he was riddled with guilt and believed he was responsible for my mother's death.

“My mum and dad were soulmates and they couldn't be together and I believe that is what killed them both.

“My dad did get back off drugs and went on to have two more kids, but the last two years of my dad's life was hell.

“His partner left him and took his four kids away and he wasn't allowed to contact them. He loved them kids as we all do.

“Dad ended up homeless.

“Myself, Michelle and John tried everything to help him. We put him in private rehab but that failed, so we paid for private let houses that failed.

“We were up and down from Glasgow to Lowestoft anytime he needed us. My dad chose the wrong path at the end. He had mental health problems but just because he took drugs and like to drink didn't mean we didn't love him.

“We all hated what he was doing to himself but we knew the real John was troubled but we loved him all the same.

“Drugs were not always part of his life. He was in his late 30s before he tried them.

“We as a family don't blame anyone for our dad's death.

“We would like to thank everyone involved on September 21, especially the ambulance crew who attended and hospital staff for everything they did trying to save our dad.

“All we want now is to have some closure to deal with his death.”

Mr Parsley said: “There is no evidence whatsoever he meant his life to end.”

• Previous coverage of this inquest reported Mr Riley had four children instead of eight. We apologise for the error.

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