Death of man in Oldham rented accommodation could be linked to mould, inquest hears

Credit: MEN Media

The death of a 27-year-old man is being investigated by the coroner - after suggestions it could be linked to mould his rented home.

It is claimed Luke Brooks' death, on 25 October 2022, was related to conditions at the family's home in Oldham which was described as "heavily mould-infested".

Opening an inquest into his death at Rochdale Coroner's Court, Senior Coroner Joanne Kearsley heard Mr Brooks died after suffering from pneumonia.

His post-mortem suggested the condition was brought on by 'heavily-mould infested accommodation' - with pneumonia leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome.

A microbiologist has now been instructed to inspect the property and check for aspergillus - a type of mould linked to the pneumonia he suffered from before his death, the court was told.

Ms Kearsley stressed the cause of death is 'provisional' at this stage.

Mr Brooks lived in a privately-rented home with his family, where they had been living for eight years prior to his death.

His parents made a number of complaints about the property being in a state of 'disrepair', the court heard, with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirming their own investigation.

The court heard in the days before he died, Mr Brooks suffered with 'difficulty breathing'. He felt 'weak' and developed a rash. Credit: MEN Media

Paul Lever, police coroners' officer at GMP, told the hearing: "Luke resided with his parents. He spent a lot of time in his room playing video games and left the house on a few occasions."

Mr Lever said that days before he died, Mr Brooks suffered with 'difficulty breathing'. He felt 'weak' and developed a rash.

The court heard Mr Brooks tried to get an appointment with his GP before eventually turning to the NHS' 111 service.

He was told it was thought he had a 'viral infection' and to take ibuprofen.

Mr Lever told the court Mr Brooks suffered with breathing difficulties again on 25 October.

He had a 'fit in his bed' later that day, before he stopped breathing. Mr Brooks was tragically pronounced dead.

DI Holmes told the court about a visit to the property by DI Andrew Fink and Oldham Council Environmental Health officials on 1 November.

"The photos obtained by the council in respect of the home... there had been some cleaning done in the property between October 25 and the visit on November 1, Luke's room had actually been cleaned at that point," she said.

"There was a small patch of mould growth above a radiator. They had already cleaned the internal walls of Luke's room, however it was untidy at that time. There were animals present during the visit.

"Oldham council visited the address in response to the family making complaints to the local authority.

"The property has a private landlord and the family have been in for around eight years."

DI Holmes said the landlord had previously been asked to make improvements and carry out repairs.

She said the complaints were to do with "disrepair to the property as opposed to any mould in the property."

The officer said 'no formal issues' were noted by environmental health officers at the time, but further police investigation followed.

She said: "As a result of the investigation that's conducted, there will be further examination, we have commissioned a microbiologist following the result of the post-mortem."

DI Holmes added: "At this moment in time, the investigation is looking at whether criminal offences may have been committed and also what opportunities the council may have had as well. But at this moment in time they are still keeping an open mind."

The court heard that no photographs were taken of the mould inside the property by police on the day of Mr Brooks' death, although there is 'limited' body-worn camera footage from inside his bedroom.

Commenting on the police's visit to the property following his death, Ms Kearsley added: "At the time when officers attended, whilst mould was noted in the property, obviously everybody was keeping an open mind in relation to the death of a 27-year-old."

The court heard Mr Brooks' family had 'concerns he was dissuaded from attending A&E by 111'.

Awaab Ishak's family have fought for justice after the two-year-old's death.

The inquest opening comes two months after Ms Kearsley presided over hearings into the case of Awaab Ishak, who died in 2020 after being exposed to mould at his parent's housing association flat in Rochdale.

The two-year-old's case - and the scandal surrounding Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) that followed - sparked the Awaab's Law campaign.

The amendment to the Social Housing Bill would place strict, legally binding timelines on social landlords to fix serious health hazards such as damp and mould.

Charities have also called for the protections to be extended to those living in private rentals also.

While the coronial investigation has some way to go, it could soon be confirmed that Mr Brooks' death is the second in recent times in Greater Manchester to be related to medical issues brought on by mould.

Following the hearing, Mr Brooks' dad James said: "Luke was a fantastic lad. He was a fit lad, he wasn't unfit. He was the nicest lad you could meet.

"He was a lovely human being. I was lucky to get 27 years with him. He never gave us any trouble. He was a good artist, he couple play the guitar and the piano, he was very talented."

Mum, Patricia, added: "He had a brilliant heart, he was funny. He was a wind-up merchant. He had the patience of a saint, our Luke.

"He took over the cooking, he looked after me and James. He wouldn't leave our side. He was our angel, he was the spark in this house. He was the light."

Evidence linked to Mr Brooks' death will be reviewed in May. A full inquest has been scheduled for 7 August.

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