Former boxer and dad of three died after falling unconscious in Norwich 'drug den'
PUBLISHED: 16:38 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:55 08 October 2018
The family of a 39-year-old former boxer and father-of-three who died after falling unconscious in the flat of a known drug user have described him as a "loveable rogue".
An inquest heard John Allen, known as Sid after his boxing name Sid Vicious, had struggled with heroin addiction since 2004.
He had worked removing asbestos before contracting Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema.
The Norwich inquest heard he got clean after a spell in The Priory hospital, but relapsed and suffered three overdoses the following year.
A police report was read out, telling how Mr Allen had been “frothing at the mouth” on the floor of a drug user on Gentry Place at 4am on July 31 last year.
But a 999 call was not made until 10.30am, a time lapse his family believed was “the difference between life and death”.
Mr Allen’s cause of death was given as multifocal cerebral infarction, hypoxic injury and multiple organ failure, as well as severe bronchopneumonia, rhabomyolysis, COPD and chronic intravenous drug use.
Mr Allen had been out drinking with friends on July 30 before heading to the flat around 10.30pm, the inquest heard.
According to the report from DS Donna Wreford, Mr Allen “had been asking for drugs and there was a spoon left over from heroin use earlier in the evening”.
The report went on to say the resident of the flat saw “at one point [Mr Allen] was frothing at the mouth and being sick so he scooped the sick and froth away”. But paramedics were not called for another six hours.
After discovering the 999 call had been made from Gentry Place, three women from the Allen family went to the property to confront the man living there, who is not being named.
They told the inquest the property is a “drug den”.
In a statement to police, the resident at the property said Mr Allen used to “get drunk and come to his flat to crash”.
“I have seen him like that before, but he has always slept it off before,” he told police.
Area coroner Yvonne Blake told the family: “We may never really know the full extent of what happened to Sid.
“The lack of help in the flat may well have made a difference. Certainly by the time paramedics arrived he was in a bad way.”
She recorded a narrative conclusion.
“He still had time to live”
Mr Allen would have celebrated his 40th birthday on August 8 this year - and his family have said the last 12 months have been “terrible” for them.
A statement read to Norfolk Coroner’s Court by the Allen family said: “John unfortunately lost his fight for life 11 days after he was admitted to hospital.
“He was left unconscious for at least six hours in a known drug user’s flat.
“We believe this may have made a difference between life and death and can’t understand why nobody is accountable for this in the eyes of the law.
“This has been a terrible year for us. Exactly one year ago yesterday was the day he was admitted to hospital. He had complicated health issues but still had time to live.”
In a letter to the coroner Mr Allen’s father Tony said: “The doctor told us if the call had been made earlier it might have been a totally different outcome. Our grief is still very raw and emotions are running high. We simply want the truth to come out so we can lay our minds, and Sid, to rest.”
“We never turned our backs on him”
After the inquest, Mr Allen’s father Tony said he was “born and bred in Norwich” and had been a professional boxer.
As the middle brother of five boys growing up in West Earlham, he used to train in the boxing ring with his brother, and was a member of Broadside Warriors Boxing Club.
He had been diagnosed with mild depression and developed thoughts of self harm, but “would always seek help afterwards”, the court heard.
“He was a loveable rogue but he didn’t think anyone liked him,” said Mr Allen. ““He thought he was a burden to us and I told him he needed to live with someone younger.
“He was really loved by everybody and there were 200 people at his funeral.
“We would never turn our back on him - we never did and we never would. When he did get clean we became a proper family again. I have grieved now for a year and I keep having flash backs.
“He was such a lovely boy.”