By Calvin Palmer
The weight of a 240-pound man proved fatal for a would-be car thief, an inquest in Stoke-on-Trent, England heard today.
Bernard Doherty died after being restrained by overweight lorry driver Brian Machin as he attempted to steal a Mitsubishi Shogun belonging to Machin’s cousin, William Jones, also a lorry driver.
Machin, 53, of Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent, used his knee to pin 24-year-old Doherty to the ground while Jones, 57, lay across his legs and held Doherty down while they waited for police to arrive in the early hours of January 9 last year.
When police arrived, they found Doherty unconscious and still being restrained, the inquest was told.
Doherty, from Stockport, Cheshire, was later pronounced dead at hospital after police, paramedics and hospital medics had all failed to revive him.
A post-mortem revealed he died from asphyxia due to an object pressing on his chest area.
Machin and Jones, who said they “showed no malice” towards him, were later arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing. Eventually, the case against them was dropped because prosecutors could not “establish that the force used was excessive”.
Machin had to move out of his home, which he had just spent £2,000 redecorating, “for his own protection” after the death.
The inquest heard Jones had been followed as he drove to Machin’s home when Doherty approached him and said: “Give me the keys to the Shogun, if you don’t, I’ll turn you over”.
He then snatched the keys and jumped into the driver’s seat but Jones struggled with Doherty before Machin pulled him out of the vehicle.
They restrained Doherty, whose face was under the Shogun, and told the inquest they thought he had stopped struggling because he knew he could not escape.
Jones told police: “I said something like ‘give it up son, you aren’t going anywhere’ and it was like he gave up.
“We weren’t restricting his breathing as far as we were aware. We didn’t want to hurt him, we just wanted to let the police have him. We didn’t want to assault anybody.”
His cousin added: “If he had said ‘you’re hurting me’ then we would have pulled him out from under the car. There was no malice towards the lad. I didn’t think I was hurting him.”
Ian Smith, the North Staffordshire Coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Doherty, who had a partner, Brooke and a four-year-old daughter, Britney, was visiting Stoke-on-Trent to attend a family funeral.
And like any self-respecting grieving mourner, he decided to steal a car for reasons that went with him to his grave.
No doubt his loss is great for Brooke and Britney, although perhaps not with those names, but for the rest of society, Machin and Jones did everyone a big favor.
In the United States, Doherty would have been pronounced dead at the scene after being shot by the two cousins, who would have had no case to answer.