Mystery surrounds Burnley man’s New Year’s Day death

editorial image
Share this article

The family of a Burnley man who was found dead in his bed on New Year’s Day will never truly know what caused his death.

Mr James O’Callaghan (41) may have died from an epileptic fit, according to pathologist Dr Walid Salman who told an inquest he could not find a definite cause.

The inquest at Burnley Coroner’s Court heard evidence from Mr O’Callaghan’s sister, Mary Harrison, who said her brother had suffered from epilepsy since childhood.

Mr O’Callaghan, who also had diabetes, suffered a nervous breakdown following the death of his father at Christmas, 2009.

He had been sectioned and placed on anti-psychotic drugs olanzapine and mirtazapine, both of which were found within the therapeutic level in his system during the post-mortem examination. The epilepsy drug carbamazepine was also found at a normal range during toxicological tests, Dr Salman revealed.

He added: “The cause of death is unascertained but given there was a history of epilepsy I cannot rule out the possibility that he suffered a fatal fit. The liver showed some fatty change but I don’t think this caused death. It is more likely an epileptic fit.”

Mary Harrison told the hearing that medication had made her brother sleepy and it was not unusual for him to sleep during the day.

East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor, who recorded a conclusion of natural causes, said: “The pathologist did every test he could to determine the cause of death. An epileptic fit is the best guess we have.”