Son, 18, died after ingesting poisonous substance bought online, inquest hears

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An 18-year-old student from Stoke died after ingesting a poisonous substance he bought online, an inquest heard.

Matthew O'Reilly described by his mother as "very clean living" and "a perfect son", was found dead in his student accommodation in Salford on 25 September 2020.

His worried parents raised the alarm after they had not heard from him for a few days, Bolton Coroner's Court heard.

Nick Saunders, a manager at John Lester and Eddie Colman Courts, found Mr O'Reilly on the floor between his bed and desk and administered CPR while waiting for emergency services but he was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. 

He had ingested a poisonous substance, purchased online a few weeks previously, before moving to Salford to start his degree.

'He was the perfect son' - mum tells inquest

The teenager, from Stoke-on-Trent, had secured a place studying English Literature at the University of Salford after achieving excellent GCSE and A-Level grades.

Senior coroner Timothy Brennand described how a number of similar cases were all adjourned to allow police time to conduct enquiries.

Detective Inspector Andrew Wright, from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), identified a website informing visitors of how to obtain a suicide kit containing a poison, which can be used legitimately for industry means.

The court heard how an organisation in Sussex gave GMP the names of 200 people who had purchased the substance from them and it transpired 47 people have since taken their own life. 

A number of others admitted purchasing the poisonous substance to end their lives, but there had been an intervention. Some had purchased it for legitimate means. 

Mr O'Reilly's name was not on the list and the court heard how he had sourced the poison was still unknown.

Cluster of reported poisonous substance cases

Forensic toxicologist Julie Evans said there had been a cluster of reported cases in 2020 and said: "Globally the number has been going up since 2019."

Mr Brennand said: "The company directors of the organisation were not aware of the nefarious use of the (poison)." He added that the company has now stopped selling the product.

The court heard how Mr O'Reilly, a regular gymgoer who cared about his food and health, was diagnosed with Chron's disease in 2017. 

His mother, Anne-Marie O'Reilly, told the coroner she believed her son was suffering flare-ups with his Chron's disease but was not opening up about it.

Mrs O'Reilly said: "He was very body image conscious and thought he was not good enough. I think he was having a lot of flare-ups but he would not admit it.

"He had an emotional wall up and he lost far too much weight doing all this exercise."

Teenager took his health seriously

Giving evidence, close friend Daniel Poppinger said Mr O'Reilly was the 'standout' friend in his friendship group when it came to taking care of his health and fitness.

He said Mr O'Reilly did not touch alcohol or drugs and took his health very seriously.

He described Mr O'Reilly as a very keen runner, getting "fitter and fitter", who was preoccupied with his nutritional intake, preparing healthy meals. He confirmed Mr O'Reilly had no financial worries and was not being bullied.

Mr Poppinger said: "He was a bit self-conscious about his looks but nobody thought he had a reason to be - everybody thought he was great." 

Mr Poppinger, who met Mr O'Reilly in 2013 and was at the same sixth form before also going to Salford University, said his friend "may have been slightly anxious but not to concern level."

Mr Brennand ruled out any third party involvement and said he was satisfied in the balance of probabilities that Mr O'Reilly had deliberately ingested the poison. 

However, the coroner said he bore in mind there was no text message, no contact with his parents, no self-harm and no suicidal ideation.

Mr Brennand said: "There is nothing that can indicate to me what his intentions were. He was from a close family and looked up to his older sister. 

"He was blossoming in life and moving into a life of independence in what is an exciting time in a young person's life, but can also be daunting. He was looking forward to the events of the unfolding year.

"There is a sparsity of evidence and he had much more to live for than to die for. This is a tragic and extraordinarily sad case."

Recording a narrative conclusion, Mr Brennand added: "I record Matthew died as a consequence of a deliberate act of recent self ingestion of an unknown quantity of (the substance) in circumstances in which his intention remains unclear."

A visibly distressed Mrs O'Reilly said she "would never learn to live with his death" and said "she cries every night."

His father, John, added: "He was a wonderful boy."

Mrs O'Reilly said her son's death "has ruined my life too", adding: "He was the perfect son."