Schoolboy fell off cliff to his death after drinking to celebrate finishing exams


A drunken schoolboy plunged 100 feet to his death after he downed pints of strong lager and sambuca shots celebrating the end of his GCSEs exams during an underaged binge in Cornwall, an inquest heard.

Tragic Paddy Higgins, 16, had three times the legal drink drive limit of alcohol in his blood after he was illegally served rounds at an Indian takeaway in Newquay.

Paddy and friends each downed around six cans of Stella at the campsite before drinking beer and sambuca at the restaurant.

But Paddy died when he fell from cliffs above Tolcarne beach in the early hours of 6 July 2009 after becoming separated from the group – the second youngster to die in a fall from the same cliffs in just a week.

An inquest in Truro, Cornwall, yesterday heard Paddy was three times the legal drink drive limit, with 241mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – the legal limit is 80mg.

Pathologist Dr Joseph Matthews said: ”The alcohol content is high and likely to have had a serious detrimental effect on motor and cognitive function.”

Police believe Paddy, who died from multiple injuries, tried to climb up the 100ft sheer cliff because he drunkenly thought it was a short cut to the bus stop.

Paddy had just finished his GCSEs at Forest School in Wokingham, Berkshire, where his father John, 48, taught business studies.

John Higgins and Paddy’s mother, Maria, 43, released the last photograph taken of their son in an attempt to warn others of the dangers of binge drinking at the popular resort.

Newquay is a mecca for School leavers who let off steam in its bars and clubs after their exams – swelling the town’s population from 20,000 to 100,000 during the summer months.

The inquest heard Paddy had consumed so much alcohol during his journey from Berkshire that he had vomited on the train.

The following day, on Sunday 5 July, the group tried to get into an under 18s disco at the Koola nightclub but, after queuing for an hour, decided to get alcohol in the town centre.

Paddy’s 16-year-old friend Giana Aujla told the inquest he was served drinks without being asked for any proof of age.

He said: ”We thought we would try our luck. We wanted to celebrate in style. I bought a round of beers because being the tallest I look the oldest.

”I can’t remember what we bought next but I think it was sambuca. We all chipped in the money for it.”

When asked by the coroner about Paddy’s condition when he was last seen alive, Giana told the hearing: ”We had all drunk a lot that evening.

”Paddy was drunk, yes. He is a normal, happy drunk – a lively, energetic friend. He just enjoyed a beer.”

Teenagers George Nazer and Kim Sue Stradwick, who had been enjoying a nighttime ”kiss and cuddle” found Paddy’s body on the beach.

George told the inquest: ”The tide was out and it created a really long beach. We walked and talked for 10 to 20 minutes and had a kiss and cuddle.

”Kim pointed out a strange looking rock at the base of the cliff, she kept saying how weird that it looked almost like a human.

”We realized the rock was a white male lying face down in the sand. It was very scary.

“I thought it was some bloke who was drunk. I tried calling out to him but there was no response. We thought he was just passed out or sleeping.

”I went over and tried to shake him. We turned him over but it was hard because he was heavy. He had blood streaming down his face.”

Kim Sue Stradwick broke down as she told the inquest how she had tried to resuscitate Paddy.

She said: ”We started to give him mouth to mouth. I remember having blood in my mouth. I wiped his face with my cardigan.

”I had seen him on the train on the way down. He had had a straw hat on and I really liked him. He was being sick on the train but everyone thought it was a laugh.”

Paddy’s friends told the inquest that Paddy had not returned to the campsite with them because he had gone to find Giana after he became separated from the group.

His friend Jay Lewis told the inquest: ”We came to Newquay to celebrate finishing out GCSEs. We were planning to have a week in the sun, relaxing away from our parents.

”We were all in good spirits and happy that the exams were over and we were free.”

Recording an open verdict, Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon said Paddy had consumed ”a considerable amount of alcohol”.

She added: ”I have heard that initiatives have been put in place by police, the council and other bodies to stop incidents like this occurring again.

”I offer my condolences to his family and friends who have had an awful loss.”

Speaking after the verdict, Paddy’s father John said his son was ”a good boy”.

He said: ”We are still extremely proud of our son. We want him to be remembered as a good boy.

”He made a couple of mistakes but we do not want him to be remembered because he drank too much. He tried to help someone else and he died.”

The owner of the Indian takeaway which served the teenagers alcohol is believed to have left the resort and the restaurant has now changed hands.

A Facebook page titled ‘Boycott Newquay Holidays for Teenagers’ – set up by Mr Higgins’ stepson Tom, Paddy’s stepbrother, has nearly 3,000 members.

In an attempt to combat the effects of the annual teenage invasion, this year police implemented a ”ring of steel” to prevent a repeat of last year’s chaos.

Officers have targeted unruly arrivals at Newquay airport, plainclothes police patrol trains, and visitors’ cars are being monitored using number-plate recognition software.

Sniffer dogs and stop-and-search powers have also been deployed for the first time to target holidaymakers arriving at the town’s train station.

Speaking at the inquest, DC John Harcourt said that the schemes were ”very active” and had so far had a good response.

He said: ”If under 18s are found with alcohol they are taken to the police station where their parents or guardians are called.

”It is early days and we know that it will be particularly busy when A-level results come out soon.”


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