The family of a “loud and likeable” Derbyshire dad who died after taking cocaine fear foul play behind his death.
Daniel James Rice, 26, was found dead in his Ripley flat on July 5 last year after complaining of a suspected broken rib.
An inquest into his death was opened at Derby Coroners’ Court by assistant coroner Tanyka Rawden on August 5, 2019.
DC Graham Miller of Derbyshire police told the court how there was nothing of a criminal nature surrounding Mr Rice’s passing.
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But family say witness accounts and the state of his flat have led them to believe the reasoning behind his death could be far more sinister.
Speaking at the inquest, a friend said: “Someone is hiding something.
“He had a few enemies he owed money to.”
The court heard how Mr Rice, of Church Street, was last seen on July 2 at the Sir Barnes Wallis pub in Maple Avenue, Ripley.
His friends say he had been in good health and was laughing and joking before being dropped off at home.
DC Miller said Mr Rice had sent a text message to a friend at 9.19am on July 3 saying: “Sorry, I can’t be in, I think I have broken one of my ribs. I can barely move. I think I am going to go to hospital.”
The inquest heard there was no further activity on his phone following the 9.19am text.
The court was told how Mr Rice was a drug user and there was evidence on his phone to suggest he was actively seeking drugs.
His family had visited to check on him several times before growing concerned and breaking into his flat on July 5 where he was discovered on the floor.
DC Miller said there was no evidence to suggest there had been a disturbance at the flat.
A small bag of cocaine was found in Mr Rice’s pocket and three lines of white powder and a rolled up £5 note were discovered on the kitchen side.
Speaking at the inquest, a friend said that upon finding Mr Rice’s body, his flat appeared to be in disarray.
They said this was out of character for Mr Rice who was known to be very tidy.
They said: “His flat was upside down.
“There were no quilts on his bed, the table had broken in half, there were curtains behind his TV, nothing was right. There was glass everywhere.”
A pathologist found how there was no bruising to his chest and no evidence of a rib fracture.
There was a small bruise to the left of his forehead and left cheek but “nothing to be concerned about”.
His family said witnesses recalled hearing raised voices coming from Mr Rice’s flat on July 3 and someone “running up and down the stairs”.
The inquest heard how a concerned neighbour even went out onto the street to see if she could contact him through his window.
Friends said Mr Rice was known to be “quiet and paranoid” while on drugs.
Witnesses told the court how Mr Rice was known to use drugs as a coping mechanism and would often lock himself away for a few days to be on his own.
The inquest heard how he had been to Devon with his mother and five-year-old daughter a week before his death.
It is thought he could have been feeling down about returning home and going back to work.
Speaking at the inquest, his mother, Mandy Rice, said: "He was a very loud and likeable lad who touched a lot of people.
"He said it was his demons which would not leave him alone."
A post-mortem report found how Mr Rice had recently used cocaine and amphetamines before his death.
The inquest was told how Mr Rice became unconscious after suffering a seizure or cardiac arrest and choked on his own vomit.
Assistant coroner Mrs Rawden concluded that Mr Rice died of aspiration of gastric contents by cocaine use. She ruled his official cause of death as drug related.
She said: "He sounds like an amazing guy.
"I am sorry that his daughter is going to grow up without him. It's a real tragedy."