A father-of-four died in hospital after being found unconscious in a clump of bushes.
Raymond Davis had been reported missing after he failed to return to the Shelton bail hostel where he was staying.
A member of the public came across him in the foliage behind a taxi firm’s base in Old Town Road, Hanley. There was a needle nearby.
The 48-year-old was still clinging to life and was taken to the Royal Stoke University Hospital. He was admitted to the critical care unit, but efforts to save him proved fruitless and he died on July 12, 2019.
An inquest heard he had a history of heroin use and mental health problems. But he had managed to get himself clean off all illegal drugs while spending time in prison. He had just been on prescription antidepressants.
Ray was released from jail on July 5 – five days before he went missing.
Want a free daily bulletin – plus breaking news alerts direct to your inbox? Then sign up to our email newsletter service by clicking here.
Or you can type your email address into the ‘sign up to free daily alerts’ box. It’s at the top of this article.
Click ‘subscribe’ and you can expect your first newsletter at the next release.
His sister, Elizabeth Davis, saw him on July 6 when he visited her home. She described him as being ‘in good spirits’.
“I had no cause for concern,” she said.
It was only later that she realised something was horribly wrong.
Ray’s disappearance coincided with the 12-month anniversary of his mum’s funeral. Her death had hit him hard.
Elizabeth said his drug-taking seemed to be a way of coping with his mental health difficulties.
She added: “He struggled all his life with mental health. I don’t think he got the help he should have got.”
Medical tests showed Ray had several substances in his system, including heroin and cocaine. His death was put down to combined drug toxicity.
The inquest was told that a ‘period of abstinence’ from drugs would have reduced his tolerance levels.
His father Alan Davis said Ray had first started sniffing glue as a teenager and then moved on to taking drugs.
Ray, who grew up in Abbey Hulton and Bentilee, ended up becoming homeless and ‘moving between hostels’.
Alan said: “He also self-harmed on numerous occasions.”
When Ray was found unconscious, police tried to piece together his last known movements.
Dianne Thorley, a civilian investigations officer, tracked down CCTV footage from the area.
It showed an ambulance driving past, although she was unable to trace the person who made the 999 call.
Police concluded there were no suspicious circumstances.
North Staffordshire area coroner Emma Serrano said: “There were needle marks on his body, suggestive of recent drug use.”
She told Ray’s family she was not satisfied he had intended to take his own life as he had been taking steps to address his difficulties.
She added: “It appears he took himself off to that area, with an amount of heroin, and his body wasn’t able to take that amount. That is why he passed away.”
She recorded a drugs-related death.