Homeless father died underneath unconscious friend after they downed bottle of vodka in 15 minutes
PUBLISHED: 15:09 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:22 14 March 2019
A homeless alcoholic who was found dead in a Norwich alleyway may have suffocated by accident after his drunken friend fell on top of him.
An inquest into the tragic death of Remigijus Balsevicius, 51, who had lived in a tent at a homeless camping spot in Norwich, heard he had been missing from his Lithuanian family for two years.
He was found dead on the bottom of a stairwell near the Walnut Tree Shades pub, Old Post Office Court, Norwich, at 5pm on September 16, 2018.
CCTV footage showed he had been drinking a large bottle of vodka on the stairs with his friend Alvydas Ozolas at around 7.20am, consuming the entire bottle in under 15 minutes.
At an inquest at Norfolk Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, Det Con Lee Marriner said in his written statement that the alleyway was a well-known area where street drinkers would regularly go to drink and fall asleep.
Both men had fallen asleep or had become unconscious and ended up slumped on the ground, with Mr Ozolas falling on top of Mr Balsevicius for more than two hours.
Mr Ozolas is around 6ft tall and weighed 85kg - much larger than Mr Balsevicius who was described by DC Marriner as of a small-build and weighing 65kg.
DC Marriner said that although the medical cause of death stated Mr Balsevicius died of excess alcohol, he could not rule out the possibility that he may have accidently died as a result of suffocating.
“However, there is no direct evidence of this in the lung examination [at post mortem],” he added.
The court heard Mr Balsevicius had 428mcg per 100ml of blood on the day he died, which DC Marriner said was enough to cause sudden death. The legal drink-drive limit is 80mcg.
He initially collapsed at around 7.34am and was seen on CCTV coughing and spluttering 13 minutes later.
DC Marriner said at this point he was “in the throes of dying”.
At around 8.23am, both men slid down the staircase in their drunken unconscious state with Mr Ozolas landing on top of Mr Balsevicius.
Mr Ozolas awoke at 10.36am and tried to shake his friend in a bid to wake him up. After several unsuccessful attempts he staggered off and did not return.
When police tracked down Mr Ozolas months later, he was described as visibly upset upon hearing the news his friend had died that day.
He told police he had little recollection of being on the steps and had tried to search for Mr Balsevicius but assumed he was in prison for shoplifting.
When police searched his tent at a homeless camp near Marriott’s Way, behind the Halfords store in Barker Street, they found no documentation or belongings.
His death came as a shock to his 28-year-old son Vykintuas Balsevicius, who attended the inquest hearing.
He told the court his father had been missing from Lithuania, his native country, for two years without a trace.
The court heard Mr Balsevicius was born in Kaunas and worked as a carpenter. He sold his property and left Lithuania in 2016 and lived for a time in a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) with other Eastern Europeans in Attleborough where he worked in a chicken factory.
His former neighbours told police they had not tried to contact him after he left the year before he died, and that they did not know him very well.
Vykintus, who lives in the Netherlands, said he had tried to search for this father in Lithuania and made several calls to his Skype account.
“I got a shock when I found out he was actually here and he was homeless, it was the biggest surprise,” he said in an informal, emotional exchange with senior coroner Jacqueline Lake.
“I was searching for him there, I had no knowledge he came here. He told me many times that he was very unfortunate here and he had many unsuccessful stories.”
Ms Lake concluded that Mr Balsevicius died from an alcohol-related death.