Published: 21 February, 2013
by ALICE HUTTON
RELATIVES of a health campaigner say they are furious that a second inquest into his death needed to be held because the first coroner was unqualified.
Lenny Rodgie’s family said they were glad that the role of his epilepsy had been expanded on in a fresh inquest held at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Monday.
Mr Rodgie, a popular tenants leader in Camden Town, died in 2011 aged 61.
A series of inquests are being reheard at the court following the discovery that former coroner Dr Andrew Reid hired his wife, Suzanne Greenaway, as his deputy. It was later revealed she did not have the right qualifications for the post.
Ms Greenaway resigned after conducting about 30 hearings, including an inquest into Mr Rodgie’s death and that of singer Amy Winehouse.
Dr Reid quit weeks before a standards investigation into her hiring was due to conclude.
A pathologist was not called to give evidence at the first hearing into Mr Rodgie’s death.
The importance of his epilepsy was only marked as a contributory factor at the first inquest, which ruled he died of pneumonia.
Alison Rodgie, one of Mr Rodgie’s three daughters, told the New Journal that their family was “traumatised” and “appalled” by the fight to get “respect” for their father.
Mr Rodgie, who chaired the tenants’ association at Delancey Studios in Camden Town and was a campaigner and fundraiser for epilepsy awareness charities, was found in the bedroom of his flat in a supported housing unit in Holborn in January 2011.
The father-of-three, who spoke in parliamentary committee debates about epilepsy and was the first person to have an epileptic fit on television, had suffered from “debilitating” fits from the age of 10.
A post-mortem revealed multiple cuts and bruises which pointed to a collapse, as well as the onset of pneumonia.
After Ms Greenaway’s resignation – her qualifications in Australia did not count in the recruitment process – Dr Reid wrote to the families involved in her inquests apologising and offering fresh inquests.
The Rodgie family claim they actually found out about the crisis at the coroner’s court by reading the New Journal.
At the second inquest Dr Olaf Bierdrzycki, a Home Office pathologist, told the court injuries to Mr Rodgie’s knees, feet, ankles and arms and bruising on the scalp all pointed to an epileptic fit.
He said a fit could have fatally worsened the impact of the pneumonia on the inflammation in his lungs.
“I think it is more likely than not that a fit of epilepsy was part and parcel [of his death],” he added.
“As the pneumonia took hold that would have provided enough of a reason to fit.”
Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe re-recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. She said last night (Wednesday) that the “rehearing corresponds with the original verdict. No change has been made to the verdict and the cause of death of Leonard Rodgie.”
Dr Radcliffe added: “While I am required by law to hold these rehearings, I understand this is upsetting for the families involved and would like to offer my condolences.”
She had told the family at the end of the inquest: “I’m hoping that will set your mind at rest. He was a remarkable man to have coped with so much during his life.”
But Alison Rodgie said afterwards: “St Pancras Coroner’s Court let us down by failing to meet general standards. We were on the receiving end of poor communication and administration from the beginning, at what was obviously already a very traumatic time for us.
“After the original inquest into our father’s death, we were left with more questions than answers, and then we were appalled to hear about the circumstances of the appointment of Suzanne Greenaway.
“After Monday’s hearing we feel a great deal of relief at the outcome and a sense of satisfaction that our father has been given the respect that he deserves.”
Her sister Lorna added: “We might not have known about it but we saw it in the New Journal.
“It’s been an awful time because we just knew that the original verdict did not make sense and it’s been a long wait to have the truth recorded. Our dad was the bravest person I know and we miss him so much.”
Helen Shaw, co-director of charity Inquest, said reform of coroner’s courts was long overdue.
“Every year tens of thousands of bereaved families are enduring lengthy delays and an archaic, unaccountable system lacking proper national standards and administrative oversight,” she added.
“The appointment of the Chief Coroner last year and the changes that will be made this year will hopefully go some way to addressing these issues.”