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Engineer blew himself up making crystal meth, inquest rules

Council contractor Daniel Coleman was managing the demolition of Aspen House

25 August, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Firefighters found a makeshift bed in the abandoned building

AN experienced demolitions engineer blew himself up as he tried to make a batch of the highly addictive drug Crystal Meth in a council-owned block he was employed
to look after, the St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard today (Tuesday).

Daniel Coleman, 42, originally from Essex, died on St Valentine’s Day this year when an explosion and fire swept through the flat he had been squatting on the
Maitland Park estate, near Chalk Farm.

Mr Coleman had been employed by Camden Council contractors to manage the demolition of Apsen House – a seven storey block being replaced under the council’s
Community Investment Programme.

Coroner Mary Hassell recorded a narrative verdict, stating that Mr Coleman had been living secretly in a flat in the block and had caused the explosion himself.

She told Mr Coleman’s relatives she believed his death was accidental and was related to drug use, adding: “I am satisfied he caused the fire inadvertently. I heard evidence that Crystal Methamphetamine been made there using a process called ‘Shake and Bake’.

“This is known to be dangerous and volatile, and can cause sudden explosions. There are no other feasible explanations.”

The inquest heard evidence from security guards Ibrahim Yahya and Jerry Thompson, who said they never saw Mr Coleman going in and out of the building at odd times, and did not believe he could have made a home inside without being spotted.

But Ms Hassell said: “I have heard evidence that points in a different direction. The London Fire Brigade found a makeshift bed and mattress and a rail of clothing in the
flat. Daniel was known to live on the sites he worked on.”

Security guard Mr Thompson told the inquest his job was to keep the site safe from intruders on night shifts.

He said: “I used to sometimes see him at night. He would come into our security office and say hello.”

He added he did not notice a light was ever on inside the flats, and that an intruder alarm was active. His colleague Ibrahim Yahya agreed with his colleague, stating during patrols he never saw anyone inside the block.

However, a security guards log book noted that at 3am one morning in the days before his death, Mr Coleman was seen leaving the block carrying a number of unspecified items.

Camden’s Safer Homes officer Dominic Johnson told the inquest Mr Coleman had been employed by a contractor, and outlined how the Town Hall had updated their policy regarding drug use for workers five months before Mr Coleman died.

He said: “…at the time of this incident it was in it’s infancy. No testing had been undertaken. Mr Coleman, in his role, would not have been identified as someone who was high risk. No concerns were raised over his work or conduct.”

Witness John Devlin, who lives opposite Aspen House , told police he had seen a light burning in the flat on numerous occasions. He added he had seen people on
stairwells at night, clutching a torch.

Mr Coleman’s friend Conal McCleery told the inquest he believed Mr Coleman had been badly affected by a site accident around a decade ago.
He said: “His family ran a demolition company. I heard it had been involved in an accident where several people died. He had been the quantity surveyor on that job.”

He recalled Mr Coleman was highly intelligent, but also troubled.

He added: “Sometimes you’d see him walking around talking to himself. He was earning good money but spending huge amounts. I heard he spent £150,000 in
two years. He was well paid, but he threw it away. I then became aware that Dan was using Crystal Meth.”

Mr McCleery added he knew Mr Coleman had made a home on other sites he had worked on and when he started work for Camden Council, Mr McCleery recalled he had been living in a garage owned by the council.

In the days before his death, Mr Coleman told Mr McCleery he was living in a squat.
Friend Elias Michallides met Mr Coleman three years ago, who briefly employed him as a guard.

He said: “He was a generous guy, very professional. He had an important job and he did it well. He kept his boys safe.”

Mr Michallides said Mr Coleman had texted him the weekend before he died and asked him to visit – and sent his address as being at Aspen House.

He said: “I understood he was squatting there. He asked me to bring him towels. He always squatted where he worked.”

Mr Michallides had been employed for two months by Mr Coleman to work as a security guard on the near by Bacton Low Rise estate. He told the inquest Mr
Coleman was living there too.”

It was here that Mr Coleman claimed to his friend, six months before his death, he had been blown up by a gas leak.

He said: “He came in looking dishevelled. His hair and eyebrows were singed. He said he had lit a cigarette there had been a gas leak and he had been blown in the


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