Date: 16 Nov 2015
David Earnshaw was found dead at his home with 54 injuries to his neck, body and limbs including three fractured ribs.
It was thought that his injuries could have been inflicted over a number of days.
He died from excessive bleeding following a rupture to his spleen. However, it was further noted that he had a medical condition that meant that his spleen could rupture spontaneously without any external cause and as such it was not possible to say whether his cause of death was due to him being assaulted.
His inquest heard that he had been kicked like a rugby ball during one earlier assault on him, after which 'he struggled with pain and shortness of breath'. The Coroner noted that he had lost over half of his blood.
Four people were arrested in relation to his death, but none of them were charged. The four people were a 38-year-old man, two other men and a woman.
However, his inquest could not establish how he died, stating that he could have been assaulted or he could have died from a medical condition. The Coroner said that it was, 'sadly, a very unusual case'.
He was found at his home in Warberry Road West, Torquay, on Monday, 16 November 2015 at about 11am.
The police said that David Earnshaw was a heroin dealer but was known as a soft touch. They also said the he was, 'very well-liked by members of the drugs community in Torquay because of his mild manner. Mr Earnshaw was seen as being a soft touch because of his nature. There were quite frequent occasions he would be in possession of drugs and people would leave with them and not pay for them through trickery or threat of violence. It created a cashflow problem for him. He would be given a quantity of drugs to sell and if he returned without the appropriate volume of drugs or money it would create problems for him. He was often subjected to a punishment beating'. The police added that David Earnshaw had been the victim of a number of assaults because he had not brought back enough money and it was noted that one assault that he had been subjected to had involved someone jumping on him from a flight of stairs.
Following his death, it was determined that he had recently taken heroin and methadone, but that was not thought to have directly contributed to his death.
David Earnshaw's inquest heard that David Earnshaw suffered from peliosis, a vascular condition that affected his spleen meaning that blood-filled cavities could tear, causing it to rupture.
The pathologist at his inquest said that it was not possible to pinpoint when his injuries had happened or give a direct cause for them. He said that the condition of his spleen could have resulted in it rupturing spontaneously or with minor blunt trauma.
The police said that they were aware of a number of assaults on David Earnshaw including minor assaults on 1, 5 and 7 November 2015 which were inflicted by more than one person, as well as other more significant assaults that had started on 12 November 2015.
The inquest also heard that David Earnshaw's health had started to deteriorate six to eight weeks before his death and that he appeared to be homeless and dishevelled even though he had accommodation and was receiving benefits.
It was heard that on 13 November 2015, he was seen by two ambulance personnel, but he refused to go to hospital because, 'the people would know he was there and would be able to get him'.
On 15 November 2015 he told two people in Torquay town centre that he was having difficulty breathing and had pain in his ribs, and the next day, following a thud being heard at his house, which was thought could have been due to a fall, he died from a ruptured spleen.
The Coroner recorded a narrative conclusion, stating: 'The deceased had been the victim of a number of assaults, with injuries including fractures of the ribs. On the balance of probability, they came about as the result of an assault, possibly a kicking. The deceased had suffered a ruptured spleen which led to extensive bleeding into his body cavity. He died as a result of this bleeding. There is difficulty in establishing a direct causal link because of the unusual splenic condition of peliosis. The evidence has not allowed a prosecution to proceed'.
His mother said that someone had got away with murder.
David Earnshaw had been a chef before he became a drug dealer.