‘Deliberate act’ behind man’s water-binge death

mattRB/ellisRB'Matthew Ellis in April 2010. He died aged 29 on August 4, 2011 from the rare brain condition extrapontine myelinolysis.
mattRB/ellisRB'Matthew Ellis in April 2010. He died aged 29 on August 4, 2011 from the rare brain condition extrapontine myelinolysis.

AN ENGINEER died from drinking huge quantities of water after his drinks may have been spiked with ecstasy on a night out, an inquest heard.

Matthew Ellis, aged 29, developed a sudden craving for water and drank seven litres within a few hours before he began to have fits and collapsed at home.

The heating and ventilation engineer was rushed to hospital, but the salt levels in his body had sunk so low he suffered brain damage, slipped into a coma and died seven months later.

His mother Maureen, 63, said after the hearing: “He wouldn’t have taken ecstasy himself. It must have been slipped into his drink.

“He would drink a glass of water like anybody else, but at normal levels, not to that extent.”

Mr Ellis had been out drinking with friends on Boxing Day 2010. He was later admitted to hospital drunk and described as ‘walking around going mad, pressing imaginary buttons’.

When he sobered up he was discharged the following day.

His brother Andrew, 36, told the Sheffield inquest: “His pupils were massive and he was unsteady on his feet. He looked like he had taken something.

“I have seen him drunk, but that is the first time I have seen him looking like that.”

It was the next day when Mr Ellis started his water binge.

Andrew said: “He was drinking it to the point where we noticed it was a bit abnormal.

“He was on the settee and started sweating. I told him to take his coat off and he went upstairs.

“He got to the sink and went to have another glass. I told him it was dangerous to drink so much water, he just laughed it off.”

His brother then had to stop Matthew falling downstairs as he collapsed and began having fits.

He was taken to the Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale on December 28 and spent months in a coma before dying in August 2011.

Dr Mike Heap, a consultant in anaesthesia, said Mr Ellis suffered a drop in his blood sodium levels from a normal level of 142 on Boxing Day to a critical 107 two days later.

He said: “It occurs in people who, for whatever reason, drink a lot of water very quickly.”

The drop was equivalent to about six or seven litres of water.

He said it could have been associated with taking ecstasy but added: “What made him drink excess quantities of water I don’t know.”

Doctors tried to correct his low sodium by giving him doses of saline to reduce a swelling on his brain.

Dr Heap said a combination of the low sodium, the brain swelling and the seizures all contributed to his ‘extreme’ brain injury.

Pathologist Dr Kim Suvarna gave the cause of death as a chest infection, contributed to by a lack of oxygen to the brain, drugs and alcohol.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, assistant deputy coroner Louise Slater said: “It is probable the cause of death has arisen from some deliberate human act which has gone wrong.”