Inquest finds that Hayling Island teenager killed himself by overdosing on powdered caffeine

A doctor has warned against the dangers of buying of caffeine online after a 17-year-old ordered 1kg of the drug and died by suicide after overdosing on it.

Thursday, 8th August 2019, 2:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 6:34 pm
The Coroner's Court in Portsmouth Picture: Malcolm Wells (180405-3355)

Troubled Damian Szarach was found dead in his bedroom with white powder on his face and body just days after he bought the stimulant legally on the internet.

A post-mortem examination discovered the teenager, who dreamt of becoming a police officer, had nearly four times the lethal dose of caffeine in his blood.

An inquest into Damian’s death heard he ‘planned’ his own death by ordering the huge quantity of caffeine and left a suicide note’.

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It was also heard Damian had the caffeine delivered to a friend’s house and ‘lied’ to them by telling them it was in fact protein supplement.

It comes just two weeks after an inquest into the death of university science student Sophia Benning, 24, heard she died by overdosing on caffeine after using her expertise to research fatal doses.

Dr Samantha Holden, a paediatric pathologist, questioned why caffeine is so accessible. Dr Holden said at Damian’s inquest: ‘I’m not quite sure why it is available online.’

The inquest heard on March 6 Damian was found dead at the children’s home he lived at on Hayling Island.

At the time the emergency services, including specialist firefighters in hazmat suits, shut off part of the street over fears of a chemical substance.

Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard Damian was subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order [SHPO].

He was sent to the home in 2015, when he was 13, by Oxford County Council after being given the SHPO.

Troubled Damian wrote in his suicide note he decided to kill himself because of the order, which he said stopped him from pursuing his dream job, a police officer.

Team leader at the home, Lauren Fenton, said he was a ‘lovely and helpful boy’. She added: ‘He was very funny, he had goals.

‘He wanted to work in the police. He was saving up for a car, and would always ask the carers to help him find cars he could buy.

‘Damian was a big brother figure to the rest of the boys at the lodge as he had been there the longest.’

In his note Damian said he loved his family, including his grandmother who lives in Poland and whom ‘he spoke to every day’.

Giving a verdict of suicide, coroner Lincoln Brookes said: ‘There is unchallenged and clear evidence that Damian Szarach took his own life.

‘The strongest evidence lies with his note.

‘He said he could no longer live with the restrictions of the sexual harm prevention order set on him, and the order would prevent him from becoming a police officer.

‘He was a 17-year-old who seemed to be progressing well. He was doing well in his college studies, and had showed no signs of suicidal thoughts or mental health issues.

‘He explained in the note that he lied to his friend to order him the caffeine supplement online, telling him it was in fact a protein supplement.’

– The Samaritans is available free 24 hours a day on 116123.