Barlaston railway death may have been accident, inquest hears
A RECOVERING drug addict who was struck and killed by a train may have been trying to take a shortcut, an inquest heard.
Jonathan Briggs was hit on a stretch of track close to Wedgwood railway station, in Barlaston.
The 38-year-old, known as 'Jonnie', was the first of four people to be killed by trains in the area this year.
An inquest into Mr Briggs' death heard how the unemployed recovering heroin addict had become depressed following the break up of a relationship and had tried to hang himself last Christmas.
But North Staffordshire Coroner Ian Smith recorded an open verdict after deciding he could not be sure Mr Briggs intended to take his life.
The hearing was told how it was unclear what Mr Briggs had been doing by the railway at the time of his death, at around 5.55pm on January 31.
A half-empty cider bottle was found at the scene next to a tobacco tin, and Mr Briggs' body was found with his trousers around his ankles – prompting suspicions he may have stopped to urinate.
He was staying at the Salvation Army hostel on Vale Street, Stoke, at the time but was known to 'wander', the inquest heard.
Philip Cotterill, the driver of the Manchester-bound train, said he believed the collision was a 'glancing blow' which may suggest Mr Briggs had not intended to cross the train's path.
He was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering injuries including a severed spinal cord.
Small traces of alcohol and methadone were found in his system but he is not believed to have been drunk.
Mr Smith said: "I'm far from convinced Jonnie intended to kill himself. There is the fact he wasn't right in front of the train, and the fact there was no obvious indication expressed of killing himself, apart from what he had done around about Christmas and New Year.
"Most tellingly of all there is the fact that he had his trousers around his ankles and had been drinking."
Mr Briggs's brother Christopher, told how the pair had a troubled upbringing after the death of their mother in 1986.
The brothers, then living in Crewe, did not get on with their stepfather, and left home, with Mr Briggs turning to crime and drugs.
Christopher Briggs, however, said he 'saw the light' and settled down and tried repeatedly to help his brother.
Mr Briggs had moved into the Salvation Army hostel after rejecting an offer from his brother to help him rent a flat.
The pair had spoken on the phone just half an hour before his death.
Mr Briggs said: "All he said to me was that he was walking about.
"The only thing that sounded wrong was at the end of the call he said 'thanks for talking to me'.
"He said he should never have moved to Stoke-on-Trent."