A NORTH-EAST journalist died from pneumonia after suffering a head injury, an inquest heard yesterday.

Middlesbrough Evening Gazette sports reporter Michael Spence, 49, from Darlington, died on March 6.

The inquest heard Mr Spence, who was single, fell twice on High Row, Darlington on December 29, last year.

He was taken to the town's Memorial Hospital then transferred to Newcastle General Hospital, where he had two brain operations to remove blood clots.

His brother Nigel, who lives in Kent, told the inquest Mr Spence never fully regained consciousness after that day.

He said: "At first we were told he was going to die. Then it seemed he was getting a little better. But then we were told he had got one of those dreadful bugs going round the hospital and he seemed to have a relapse."

Dr Ceri Williams, consultant pathologist at Darlington Memorial Hospital, told the inquest: "The immediate cause of death was pneumonia due to head injury. He was found to have a fracture to the skull and brain damage."

He said Mr Spence, who worked for the Evening Gazette for 23 years, was also being treated for chronic alcoholism and epilepsy, which would have been contributing factors to his death.

Darlington coroner Colin Penna recorded a verdict of accidental death