Ex-paratrooper 'killed by pufferfish'

A FORMER paratrooper who died mysteriously in Sierra Leone was probably poisoned by pufferfish, an inquest heard yesterday.

David Hughes, 48, was in the west African country setting up a business to produce biodiesel when he suddenly fell ill and died.

An inquest at Kettering Magistrates Court in Northamptonshire heard Mr Hughes had travelled to Sierra Leone in June 2009 to resolve problems with a fellow former paratrooper he was working with as a business associate.

But after arranging for the man to return to the UK, the father-of-two, from Islip, Northamptonshire, fell ill and died within days.

The inquest heard low levels of tetrodotoxin – the toxin in pufferfish – was later found in his body.

But Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember said although she could not rule out suspicious circumstances in Mr Hughes's death, she had to record an open verdict.

She said: "Whilst on a balance of probabilities it is likely that Mr Hughes died of pufferfish poisoning, I have to be, in order to return a verdict that he was unlawfully killed, sure beyond a reasonable doubt that someone did an unlawful act.

"There is no certainty, it's on a balance of probabilities.

"That is not to say I have not carefully considered the matter."

Miss Pember added: "In these cases I sometimes say I am satisfied there are no suspicious circumstances but that is not something I can say today."