Tragic Durham rugby players’ deaths in Sri Lanka were drugs-related, inquest hears

The first hearing into the deaths of two rugby players during a tour of Sri Lanka has been told both had drugs in their system. Thomas Andrew Howard, 25, and Thomas Reed Baty, 26, who was known as Tom, were playing in the country as part of a team called Clems Pirates linked to Durham City RFC last May.

The opening inquest heard at County Durham Coroner’s Court in Crook has been told that on Wednesday, May 9, the team, which fundraised and encouraged others to take up the sport, had travelled to Colombo to play games and carry out some charity work.

The pair, who were part of a group of 25 men, were staying at a Hotel in the country’s capital.

On Saturday, May 12, the team took part in a match with the Ceylonese Rugby Team. After the game, the local side hosted the visitors and offered food and drink before the guests headed back to their hotel.

They got changed and at around 11pm all visited a nightclub, taking tuk tuks to the bar. They stayed for a few hours and returned to their hotel at around 2am or 3am, with some going to its Sky Bar.

Detective Constable Phil McElhone, of Durham Constabulary, said it was understood Mr Howard and Mr Baty had left the nightclub together and took a tuk tuk back to their accommodation.

Both were found the following morning in their rooms suffering from serious respiratory failure.

The coroner said the Sri Lankan investigation concluded that Mr Howard’s death was due to the intoxication of heroin, while Mr Baty’s was caused by an overdose of an opiate drug. Det Con McElhone told the court police had requested further evidence from the authorities in Sri Lanka, including witness statements, CCTV, photographs and transcripts of interviews.

He said it was uncertain when evidence would be finalised. The coroner adjourned the inquest and listed the case for mention at 12.30pm on Tuesday, December 4, at County Hall in Durham.

It is hoped that at that time progress will have been made in obtaining evidence and that it will be

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