Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News
Pop star’s ex-husband died after ‘eating cocaine ball’
THE ex-husband of reality star Kerry Katona died after eating a ball of cocaine in front of Runcorn hotel staff, an inquest heard.
Former professional rugby league player George OsaghaeKay, of Hollybank Moore, Warrington, had struggled with the effects of drug abuse for some years before he collapsed at the Holiday Inn hotel in Runcorn on the morning of July 6, 2019.
The 39-year-old’s death prompted an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after it emerged a police officer had seen the “remnants” of cocaine in his hotel room that evening but decided not to conduct any searches or arrest him.
The inquest heard she had also turned off her body worn camera before disposing of a bag and the “residue”.
Only two months before his death, he had been admitted to Warrington Hospital with drug induced psychosis, before being discharged the following day, and before that had also experienced a “minor heart attack” related to cocaine use.
His brother, Ashley Kay, told an inquest into his death at Warrington Coroner’s Court, held at the Parr Hall, that his drug use “increased” during his marriage to Ms Katona which ended around 2017.
Mr Kay told the inquest: “We want to make clear that the drug taking period increased during his time with his wife and got significantly worse when they separated, due to the fact he was stopped from seeing his child.”
Mr Osaghae-Kay’s mum, Hilary Kay, also gave a statement which was summarised by assistant coroner for Cheshire, Peter Sigee, who stated:
“She was aware that his substance abuse had been getting worse since around May 2019.
“He had a social life at that time which revolved around celebrity friends that would provide him with money and there was talk about helping him set up a business abroad.”
Ms Kay also referred to stress in his life, writing: “There were personal difficulties he had in his life that may have led to him taking more recreational drugs.”
Describing her son, she wrote “He was a lovely lad, who made friends easily. He was kind and he would do anything for anyone.”
The inquest heard that during the evening of July 5, staff at the Holiday Inn were informed by a guest that a man was in the corridor making noise.
Reception manager Carolina Garcia went to investigate and found Mr Osaghae-Kay in the corridor.
She was assisted by operations manager Craig Ponsford and bar staff member Michael Hulme, who described Mr Osaghae-Kay acting strangely and appearing confused.
The inquest heard he was not threatening or aggressive, but asked Ms Garcia if she could “prepare a line of cocaine” for him and mentioned that there were people in his room.
He repeatedly told Mr Ponsford he “needed a friend” and seemed reluctant to go to his room, the inquest heard.
Mr Ponsford was able to convince him to return to his room, but asked his colleague to call the police, a call that was made shortly before 10pm.
Mr Ponsford, food and beverage manager Luke Smith and bar staff member Michael Hulme all told the inquest they saw a quantity of white powder on the bathroom sink in Mr
When asked how much, Mr Ponsford stated around “half a teaspoon” and Mr Hulme described “four good sized pinches”.
Two officers, trainee PC Declan Corcoran and his “tutor” officer who was granted anonymity, referred to as PC A, attended the scene and were directed to the room.
Both officers said Mr Osaghae-Kay was sitting calmly on the end of his bed, staring into a mirror, but had appeared to calm down.
PC Corcoran told the inquest he believed Mr Osaghae-Kay “knew he had been hallucinating” after describing seeing “shadows” and “wasps in his room”. That officer went down to reception to speak to staff and PC A, who has since received a written warning from Cheshire Police, remained in the room.
She told the inquest she did not believe she had the power to conduct a search of his room, even after he said he had taken cocaine and that the “remnants” were in the bathroom.
However when PC A checked, she said there were only “residues” left and that there was no powder, as described by the three hotel staff.
She said if she had seen half a teaspoon of powder she “definitely would have bagged it and seized it”.
The officers were told by Mr Osaghae-Kay that he would remain in his room and decided to leave, although Mr Ponsford had asked them to take him out of the hotel due to fears over his mental health and drug use.
The inquest heard during the night Mr Osaghae-Kay left his room and had called a night porter for assistance to help him find his way back, but it “had not been possible” to determine how long he had been out or whether he left the hotel.
The court heard that the following morning Mr Smith was told there was a man upstairs talking to himself, and guessing it was Mr Osaghae-Kay went to check.
He told the court: “He was sat on a chair where the housekeepers come in and out.
“I sat on one of the steps and tried to make conversation with him.
“He then put his hands down his pants and pulled out a sock, in it was a white ball.”
Under questioning from Mr Sigee, Mr Smith described the ball as “largish” and a “decent size”.
He said: “He took the white ball out of his sock and started to eat it, and that caused the ball to crumble.
“He threw the rest of the stuff, whatever it was, on the floor. He was talking to me but then he started to go a bit shaky.”
The court heard Mr Osaghae-Kay’s condition deteriorated and an ambulance was called, but he was pronounced dead at Warrington Hospital later that day.
A toxicology report found levels of cocaine in his system high enough to cause a fatality, and a post-mortem found no other potential causes of death - leading to a medical cause of death of cocaine toxicity.
Mr Sigee said he had seen no evidence that Mr Osaghae-Kay had eaten the cocaine with the intent to end his own life and dismissed a conclusion of suicide.
Summing up his findings, he said: “Mr Osaghae-Kay died at Warrington Hospital on July 6, 2019, aged 39, due to cocaine toxicity.
“On the previous evening he had staying at the Holiday Inn in Runcorn.
“Police officers were called to attend the hotel because Mr Osaghae-Kay had been behaving erratically.
“He acknowledged to the police officers that he had consumed drugs believed to be cocaine.
“The police officers did not consider it was lawful or necessary to effect an arrest or search Mr Osaghae-Kay.
“They did not consider that he required medical care, assessment or treatment on an urgent basis. The police officers left.”
Mr Sigee recorded a conclusion of drug related death.