The mysterious death of a popular Leeds mental-health nurse left a coroner admitting he is “stumped” by the tragedy
Stephen Chidawa, known by many as ‘Stavo’, was found by his wife unresponsive in bed at their Gipton home at around noon on October 21 last year. The 45-year-old had finished a nightshift and had gone to bed that morning.
A post mortem revealed he had a “profound and fatal” level of alcohol in his system – the equivalent to being five times over the drink-drive limit.
However, an inquest into his death held at Wakefield Coroner’s Court this week heard evidence from his wife and a work colleague, who both said he showed no signs of being in drink that day and there were no empty bottles in the house. Stacy Chidawa, whom he was married to for 15 years, said he enjoyed a social drink but remains adamant he was not drinking secretly and knew instantly when he was drunk.
In addition, senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin said in such deaths, attending paramedics submit notes concerning the detection of alcohol on a patient, but none were received.
Recording an open verdict, he said: “It would be easier to fathom if you found lots of empty alcohol bottles but there was nothing. I would expect paramedics to say there was a profound smell of alcohol from him but there was no mention of it.
“We are left with a mystery. It is one of the highest levels I have ever seen and I must confess, I’m stumped.
“The circumstances are so bizarre. It’s unlikely he was hiding a secret habit. I’m sufficiently puzzled as to where he could get such a quantity of alcohol.”
He was found to have 523 mlgs of alcohol in 100 mls of urine. For guidance, Mr McLoughlin said the limit for driving is 107 mlgs, although Mr Chidawa did not drive. There were also traces of sedative drugs, zolpidem and clonazepam. He had no other significant health concerns.
Mrs Chidawa, a hospital social worker, said Stephen arrived at their Beech Mount home at around 9am that day and told her he was going to have a shower and go to bed. At around 12 noon she heard him sneezing so went to see him.
When she tried to wake him, she said he was “lifeless”. She quickly rang 999 and she began performing CPR. The paramedics arrived minutes later and continued working on him for more than 45 minutes.
Mrs Chidawa, said: “He did not smell of alcohol, there were no clues. When he was intoxicated you could see it. Maybe he could fool someone else, but I would pick up on it if he had a drink. If I had seen him intoxicated I would have been asking questions, but he didn’t present that way.”
Mr Chidawa was born in Zimbabwe and came to the UK in 1998 to study nursing at Leeds University. He would work across numerous hospitals, including the Newsam Centre in Seacroft and Lynfield Mount Hospital in Bradford.
Speaking after the inquest, close friend Kelvin Alleyne said: “Wherever he went people just loved him. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.”