Canadian found in public toilet died of drug overdose: pathologist

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 3:15am

A Canadian man found dead in a Yau Ma Tei public toilet died of a drug overdose, the Coroner's Court was told yesterday.

Dr Chiao Wing-fu, a Health Department senior forensic pathologist, said Joseph Basha, 25, died from the "adverse effect" of a combination of heroin, methamphetamine - also known as Ice - and sleeping pills.

Chiao said an overdose of heroin and drugs for treating insomnia, diazepam and zopiclone, could slow heartbeats and cause breathing difficulties.

Basha was found slumped in the cubicle of a public toilet in Market Street, Yau Ma Tei, near his home on December 21, 2011. He had a yellow belt fastened around his upper left arm.

In the cubicle, police found a syringe. Liquid in it was later confirmed to contain heroin. The drug was detected in Basha's body fluids, indicating that it had been injected shortly before his death.

Traces of heroin, Ice and zopiclone were also detected in a hair sample taken from his body. Chiao said this proved that the man had taken the drugs at least six months before he died.

Basha had two fresh needle marks on his left forearm. Chiao said it was not rare for a person with a stronger left hand to inject himself with his right hand.

"According to my [autopsy] experience, needle marks can be found on both arms of drug addicts," Chiao said. "Injecting on which arm depends on whether they can find the vein."

Basha's sister, Jacqueline Berenson, had earlier told the court that her brother was a recreational marijuana user but that he had never used intravenous drugs in Hong Kong.

The inquest continues today before Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu and a five-member jury.