Safety net for huffers called for

: The Sudima Hotel carpark where Maurice Murtagh was found unconsious. Photo: Google Maps.

A Rotorua poly-drug abuser who died after being found unconsious in the Sudima Hotel carpark last year, may have survived if there was better contact between police and medical agencies, says Coroner Michael Robb.

Maurice Junior Papariu Murtagh died June 3, 2016 at age 20 with the cause of death being severe hypoxic brain injury secondary to a prolonged cardiac arrest, caused by drug and aerosol consumption.

Maurice was well known to police having been arrested 24 times as an adult, mostly for intoxification for alcohol and or drugs, and aerosols.

Maurice was removed from his mother's care when two years old and became the subject of a custody and additional guardianship order under the Children Young Persons And Their Families Act.

That order discharged November 1 2011. The Coroner says there are reports of domestic violence and other abuse through childhood, of Maurice taking magic mushrooms from the age of seven, and using inhalants from age 12 with this continuing through to his death when he was using three to four cans of fly spary a day. He was also using cannabis almost daily including synthetic cannaboids with this beginning from age 15, and using alcohol from a young age and excessively there after.

He returned to live with his mother in 2015 when aged 16, and from then lived a transient life style often sleeping on the streets.

He came to police attention as a youth, and for his 24 adult arrests was almost invariably intoxicated at the time. He was known to community mental health and was awaiting a planned admission for alcohol detox before admission into a rehab programme. But a hospital bed only become available for detox the day after Maurice was found unconsious in the hotel car park.

“Multiple interactions with the police leading to some 24 arrests over a short period provides an opportunity to identify someone in Maurice's position as potentially having an uncontrolled addiction issue,” says the Coroner.

“Identification of that individual and their addiction issues can be missed if it relies solely on the presence of the individual at the police station at the particular times when assessments are being undertaken.

“Where a young man such as Maurice has so regularly come to police attention drawing on police resources and presenting a potential risk to others in the community and himself, a process of identifying and referring him to other agencies would be of benefit.

“Red flagging his consistent uncontrolled intoxication and bringing him to the attention of those agencies who are able to conduct a drug and alcohol assessment with him would be of benefit.”

Maurice was found lying face down in the car park of the Sudima Hotel 2pm May 24. Two members of the public rolled him on his back and finding him unconsious, began CPR.

Police and ambulance attended. Maurice had a sword down the front of his jeans, and had two cans of aerosol spary and an cigarette lighter.

In the Rotorua Hospital emergency department Maurice suffered persistent seizures, but remained in a coma in spite of circulation being re-established. He was admitted to intensive care where it was found he had suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury following his cardiac arrrest, which was caused by his substance abuse.

There was no improvement in his neurological state and on May 26 he was taken off the ventilator and transitioned to palliative care as there was no realistic chance of a meaningful recovery.

Maurice was discharged to the care of the hospice on June 1, leading to his return to his mother's address where he passed away June 3.



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The moon peeping through the clouds at Pillans Point. Photo: Mike Berry.

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