A CORONER has ruled out neglect into the death of a convicted drug lord who was handcuffed to a prison officer as he lay dying in a North-East hospital.

Michael Tyrrell, 65, died at the University Hospital of North Durham on May 30, 2013.

Sitting at Crook Coroner’s Court this morning (March 31), Coroner Andrew Tweddle heard how a post-mortem examination revealed that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Tyrrell’s death and that he died of natural causes caused by pneumonia as a result of advanced mouth cancer.

The pensioner had been labelled as the mastermind behind the biggest cocaine smuggling operation ever seen in the country after UK Customs and Excise seized 396 kilos of cocaine, worth about £90m, on a beach of his house, on the Isle of Wight, in 2000.

Coroner’s officer, Jaqueline Sirrell, said Tyrrell was sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2002 and was serving his sentence at the high-security Frankland Prison, near Durham, when he became ill in 2012 after having several teeth removed.

He lost a significant amount of weight and was admitted to hospital in January 2013.

The father-of-three was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue in March 2013 and underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy but was readmitted to hospital in May 2013 because he was struggling to breathe.

PC Sirrell said Tyrrell was handcuffed to a prison officer by a chain and at 5am on May 30 he went into cardiac arrest.

“During the 40 minutes they were treating him, the chain was removed for only about five minutes,” she said.

Tyrrell’s condition deteriorated and staff called his family.

One of his daughters arrived at 7.25am to be with him and he passed away at 9.10am.

PC Sirrell said an investigation by the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found that the care Tyrrell received was the same as he could have expected in the community, but that better communication in complex cases was needed as well looking into whether restraints were always justified.

Mr Tweddle said the family had concerns about Tyrrell’s treatment and had launched their own independent legal report concerning whether Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life, had been adhered to.

Mr Tweddle said he had found that Article 2 was not “engaged” but rejected the family’s request to adjourn the case while they applied for public funding to challenge it.

He said: “The appropriate conclusion is one of natural causes - I find no evidence of neglect.”