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Brent Francis inquest: Cause of bus collision death may never be known

Father-of-three was a regular at the Old Oak pub and used to work on a stall in Queen's Crescent

20 April, 2017 — By William McLennan

Brent Francis, and flowers at the scene of the collision in Mornington Crescent

EXACTLY what caused a popular father-of-three to fall backwards into the path of a moving bus may never be known, an inquest heard yesterday (Wednesday).

Brent Francis, who lived in Gospel Oak, died at the scene of the collision in Mornington Crescent on November 19 last year.

The 47-year-old had been on his way home after an evening with friends at the Escape Sports Bar in Lidlington Place when the collision took place in Hampstead Road at around 1.30am. St Pancras Coroner’s Court was told how it could not be stated with certainty what had caused him to lose his footing or if it could have been the effects of alcohol or the result of a seizure.

Assistant coroner Edwin Buckett said the fall was “difficult to explain” as there “appeared to be no reason for it”. News of Mr Francis’s death shocked the community in Kiln Place, where he lived with his partner and their three sons, and in Somers Town, where he grew up. The scaffolder was a regular at the Old Oak in Mansfield Road and had previously run a fish stall outside the pub.

Before that Mr Francis worked at a jewellery stall in Queen’s Crescent market. A statement from his mother Marion Ryan, that was read out to the court, said: “His family meant the world to him. He was a regular at the gym but really lived for his boys. He was well-liked, which was proven by the attendance at his funeral.” Ms Ryan, who had spent the evening at the same bar as her son, said he had told her as he left that he would visit her home the following day to help with some DIY. “He gave me a kiss and said he would see me tomorrow,” she said. Mr Francis had been drinking lager, but “did not appear drunk or impaired” when he left, the inquest heard.

A report from the Queen’s Crescent GP practice said that Mr Francis had suffered from epilepsy earlier in his life and once had a transient ischaemic attack, which is often referred to as a “mini stroke”. A post-mortem examination found that he had a previously undiagnosed “low-grade” brain tumour. The report concluded that he may have fallen due to the effects of alcohol, but said it could equally have been the result of a seizure, or an irregular heartbeat, called “cardiac arrhythmia”.

Detective Sergeant Christopher Osborne, who oversaw the investigation, described CCTV footage of the moments before Mr Francis fell. He said: “Mr Francis can be seen standing in the bus stop with his back to the road. At that stage he was quite steady on his feet. “He is noted to start to fall backwards moments before the bus starts to move off. It appears as if he is turning to his left and his left knee appears to give way.”

DS Osborne said that there was “no loose or broken paving” by the bus stop and no people nearby who may have pushed him, adding: “No one else has contributed to that fall.” He added: “There was no meaningful action that [the driver] Rashid Moulai could have taken to avoid this collision.” DS Obsorne said that Mr Moulai was “completely blameless”.

Assistant coroner Mr Buckett said: “Brent was enjoying a night out in Camden with his friends. Toxicological evidence confirms he had consumed quite a lot of alcohol, but not an excessive amount. Brent appeared normal and did not appear drunk or impaired, and this is confirmed by CCTV.” He said that while he could not say what caused him to fall, he was certain it was “either the effect of alcohol or a form of cardiac arrhythmia”.

Mr Buckett recorded a formal conclusion that death was the result of a “road traffic collision”.

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