Date: 13 Jan 2018
Place: Levensgarth Avenue, Fulwood
Gareth Roberts died following a house party in Levensgarth Avenue on Saturday 13 January 2018 at which he had been involved in a fight with another man and hit by a woman with a table leg.
His death had initially been considered a potential homicide by the police who opened a murder investigation and ordered the post mortem, however, they later concluded that there was no case but when the inquest was held in June 2019 the Coroner asked the police to reopen the case as there was insufficient evidence to rule out unlawful killing although nothing more is known.
He had 19 separate head and neck injuries. His initial post mortem stated that he had died from traumatic head, face and neck injuries.
Two people were initially arrested on suspicion of murder but later released without charge on 19 September 2018, it being heard that there was insufficient evidence to show how he came by his injuries.
Gareth Roberts had gone back to a friends house, the 36-year-old woman, with four other people for a house party at which a fight later broke out between him and the 37-year-old man who they had invited back from Sherwood Pub where Gareth Roberts worked. During the fight a glass table was smashed and a fireplace was pulled away from the wall during the struggle.
Gareth Roberts later became unresponsive and died from his injuries.
The police were called to the house at 5.35am on Saturday 13 January 2018 and Gareth Roberts was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital where he died a short time later.
The police soon after said, 'There appears to have been an altercation inside the address which has unfortunately resulted in the sudden death of Mr Roberts'. They also said, 'We are not looking for anyone else in relation to Mr Roberts’ death'.
The pathologist later said that he died from a combination of significant inhalation of blood in the airways and compression to his neck that was exacerbated by the presence of alcohol and cocaine in his system.
His post mortem also showed that he had bruising on the left side of his head, his eyebrow and on the bridge of his nose as well as blood in his nostrils. He was also found to have had a Y-shaped laceration to his upper forehead on the right.
The pathologist added that he found nothing to say that Gareth Roberts had been hit by anything externally, that there was no bleeding on his brain and that he would have expected more than linear wounds if he had been struck with significant force. He added that the neck compression fell short of having been inflicted with significant force but accepted that as there had been bruising that some force had been applied.
As a result the police didn't initially launch a criminal investigation into his death. However, at his inquest the Coroner said that 'we know the medical cause of death the difficulty lies in putting together a clear picture as to what has happened'. He then said that a conclusion that considered unlawful killing, among others verdicts, would require further evidence.
The toxicology report showed that he was two times the legal driving limit for alcohol and that tests for cocaine showed levels at 137 milligrams. The pathologist noted that people could die from cocaine, even in the 'come down phase'. The pathologist then added that his death had been exacerbated by the presence of alcohol and cocaine.
Gareth Roberts had attended a party at a friend's house the day before he died where a fight broke out between Gareth Roberts and another man from Batley, near Huddersfield, that had been visiting Preston to see his children. The man had joined the group at The Sherwood pub before being invited to go back to the party with them.
After two people later left the party it was heard that the woman who was hosting the party suggested that the man they had met in the pub stay on the sofa instead of in his car and that that that caused friction between Gareth Roberts and the woman who had previously had a romantic relationship together. It was also said that Gareth Roberts had also been upset by the attention that the man was showing the woman.
It was heard that after that Gareth Roberts sent some text messages to a friend that was also a friend of the man that they had met in the pub saying that he was trying to get rid of the man, with a final text message saying, 'I'm f****** angry right now'. The friend then forwarded the messages to the man from the pub, however, the man from the pub said that he didn't see them as his phone had been charging upstairs.
At the inquest, a police Chief Inspector said, 'On face value Gareth Roberts was angry with the man'.
The man from the pub said that Gareth Roberts then had an argument with the woman who had hosted the party during which Gareth Roberts shattered the glass living room table by putting his glass on top of it after which he said Gareth Roberts punched him twice, saying that he 'lamped' him. He added, 'I tried to get up [off the sofa] and he lamped me again'.
However, it was heard that when the woman whose party it was gave the police a statement she said that the glass table had been broken when Gareth Roberts and the man from the pub fell on to whilst fighting, adding that the man from the pub had been trying to get Gareth Roberts into 'some kind of headlock or something' and that the man then started punching Gareth Roberts after which they ended up struggling on the floor with the man from the pub holding Gareth Roberts's head between his knees.
However, the man from the pub said that he didn't punch Gareth Roberts and that he only restrained him around the waist.
It was also heard that the woman whose party it was admitted to having hit Gareth Roberts a number of times with the chrome leg from the broken table.
The man from the pub said that he heard a thud and that after which Gareth Roberts was no longer struggling.
The inquest heard that following the police interviews with the woman whose party it was and the man from the pub, along with receiving the post-mortem findings that they decided with the Crown Prosecution Service that there was no criminal investigation to be had.
However, after a short recess at the inquest, the Coroner called on the Lancashire Police to re-open its investigation into what happened in the build up to Gareth Roberts' death.
The Coroner said, 'I have serious concerns. We heard evidence from the Doctor that the restraint certainly contributed to Gareth's death'. He then added that the logical conclusion was that the restraint must have come during the struggle due to the timeline involved. The Coroner then said, 'With the restraint having contributed to the death I am not convinced that I have enough evidence before me and I am going to further adjourn this inquest and send this case back to the police for them to investigate this further. If I conclude this today I would have to consider unlawful killing, among others, but to do that I need further evidence'.
The Coroner then adjourned the inquest, saying that he would send the case back to the police for them to investigate further.
Following the Coroners decision the police said that they respected the coroner's decision and would be reviewing the matter to see if any further action was required but nothing more is known.