RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 2006
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Garry Paul BURMISTER
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) The identity of the deceased is Garry Paul Burmister (who was born Paul Jonathon Burmister but changed his name in New Zealand in 2010) (“Mr Burmister”) who died at a precise time unable to be determined but at some time between 9.30pm on 2 December 2011 and 9.00am on 3 December 2011.
(b) Mr Burmister was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 11 April 1974 and was aged 37 years at the date of his death.
(c) Mr Burmister was intermittently self-employed, most recently as a wood cutter.
(d) Mr Burmister was a married man.
(e) Mr Burmister died as a result of combined prescription drug (Diazepam and Metabolite, and Atenolol) and alcohol toxicity. Significant contributing factors were chronic alcoholism, alcoholic liver disease and chronic anxiety.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
Mr Burmister had spent his early life living and working in various parts of New Zealand and Australia. He was previously married and two children were born of that union, however the marriage ended in 2004 and apparently there had been no contact between Mr Burmister and his children since that time. In 2008 Mr Burmister met his second wife Rani Nicole Klubal in Darwin and at that stage she had three children. They married in April 2009 and later that year moved to Tasmania, eventually residing at a rented premises at 9 Louisa Street, Ranelagh. It is apparent from the information provided that for many years Mr Burmister has abused alcohol and this in more recent times has been reflected in health problems.
Mr Burmister first attended his treating general practitioner Dr Hebblewhite on 2 September 2010. At that time he presented as an emergency, having received news that his brother had died in New Zealand. He had a chronic anxiety disorder and was concerned as to how he would cope with a plane trip to New Zealand. Apparently Mr Burmister left the consulting room complaining of claustrophobic feelings, and he has then collapsed on the footpath outside the surgery. Dr Hebblewhite attended him and he was found with “no respiratory effort, unresponsive, blue, floppy.” Dr Hebblewhite administered CPR and Mr Burmister was revived. He returned on 8 September advising that his prescription for the Diazepam had been lost due to his car being stolen. There was an apparent discussion about the unsatisfactory state of losing a prescription given its attractiveness on the illicit drug market, and despite protestations from Mr Burmister the doctor prescribed four tablets only for the purpose of them being used for the trip to New Zealand. Further consultations occurred, all evidencing alcohol usage, and ongoing complaint of significant anxiety. One admission to the Detox Centre of Alcohol and Drug Service was arranged commencing on 18 April 2011, with Mr Burmister being discharged on 26 April 2011. Apparently Mr Burmister remained sober for approximately four months after this period, however he then returned to using alcohol. He was prescribed Atenolol in relation to the severe anxiety he suffered together with associated tachycardia. He was counselled continually throughout his contact with his general practitioner as to the need for him to cease the consumption of alcohol. Dr Hebblewhite had on file a number of letters sent from treating doctors in Western Australia where Mr Burmister had several documented seizures which were either due to alcohol intoxication or alcohol withdrawal. Mr Burmister was also prescribed Diazepam as he claimed that this was the only medication that allowed him to reduce his excessive alcohol intake which he described as self-medicating for his ongoing severe anxiety. His dispensations of this medication however were controlled and were limited to 15 tablets per week.
On the afternoon and evening of 2 December 2011 Mr Burmister had drunk a considerable amount of alcohol and was, by 8.30pm, significantly affected by alcohol. At approximately 9.00pm he was found by his wife Rani, asleep in the rear of his van. He was described by one of his associates, who left at approximately 8.45pm, as;
“Very drunk, falling over and slurring his words.”
Next morning at approximately 8.30am Mr Burmister was found by his wife Rani cold, discoloured and with apparent rigor mortis and CPR was not attempted as she thought he was dead. Tasmanian Ambulance Service were immediately contacted and upon attendance at the scene and after an examination confirmed that Mr Burmister was deceased.
Comments & Recommendations:
Apparently Mr Burmister and his wife had recently come to an arrangement whereby if he was heavily intoxicated he was expected to sleep in his van so as not to be in that condition around the children. When Dr Hebblewhite heard of the manner of Mr Burmister’s death she did wonder whether or not he had had another seizure or episode similar to that which had occurred outside her surgery on 2 September 2010, only on this occasion there was no-one present to assist him.
It is apparent that Mr Burmister was significantly affected by alcohol on the night of his death, post mortem blood was assessed at 0.388 g/100ml of blood (0.388%) and vitreous humour assessed at 0.464 g/100ml. This indicates a very high level of ethanol (alcohol) in his system in the hours prior to his death. Although the blood alcohol readings are approaching the fatal range, the Forensic Pathologist suggests the probable mechanism of death as central nervous system depression following by respiratory depression and death.
Before concluding I wish to convey my sincerely condolences to the family of Mr Burmister.
Dated: 30 September 2012 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.