Inquest told two Brits died of accidental heroin overdose in Sri Lanka

Two rugby players on a charity tour of Sri Lanka are likely to have been killed by a heroin overdose after buying the drug whilst thinking it was a different substance, an inquest has heard, the Daily Mail reported.

Thomas Baty and Thomas Howard were not drug users and were ‘innocent about narcotics’ but bought the drug after being given its slang name – ‘brown sugar.’

An inquest at Durham heard the British police had been frustrated by a lack of information coming out of Sri Lanka and had received what appears to be a false account from two Tuk-Tuk drivers involved in supplying the heroin.

The two men had grown up and worked together and were members of the Clems Pirates rugby team which raised money for good causes at home and abroad.

The families of law graduate Mr Baty, 26, and business owner Mr Howard, 25, were devastated by the events of May 13th 2018 following a night at Cleopatra’s nightclub in Colombo following a match on the tour.

The inquest heard that the men left the club at 1.23am and were seen getting into a Tuk-Tuk, arriving back at the hotel 40 minutes later.

They were seen on CCTV going to Mr Baty’s room on the third floor of the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.

When they emerged 38 minutes later, Thomas Howard was stumbling and weaving along the corridor.

They were seen on CCTV going to Mr Baty’s room on the third floor of the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.

When they emerged 38 minutes later, Thomas Howard was stumbling and weaving along the corridor.

The two men went to bed but were found to be unconscious and unresponsive the following morning in their rooms by their team-mates.

Mr Howard died that morning while Mr Baty remained in a coma in hospital for two days until May 15th when he also died.

The inquest heard evidence from two pathologists that both men were ‘highly likely’ to have died from ‘opiate toxicity.’

The Tuk-tuk driver who picked them up, Razik Mohammed Riaz, told Sri Lankan authorities that the two men – a law graduate and a business owner – had asked to buy heroin from him.

He said he asked a contact, another Tuk-Tuk driver, Agampodige Sannath Prenathilaka De Silva, to set up the deal and sold them the drug, which they called Brown Sugar for 15,000 rupees.

Durham coroner Crispin Oliver suggested to Durham Police Detective Constable Phil McElhone, who investigated the deaths, that the account was unreliable.

He said: ‘Is it a more likely scenario that on the way back to the hotel they bought something they thought was something else other than heroin?’ DC McElhone agreed it was.

The coroner added: ‘Thomas Baty used the words ‘brown sugar’ after he reached the hotel. They may have acquired something, taken it but did not know it was heroin, they would have thought it was something else, possibly like cocaine. They have mad a mistake and may even have been misled.

‘Is that scenario more probable than the scenario that emerged from the conclusion of the Sri Lankan authorities?’

DC McElhone agreed: ‘That is more likely.’ Mr Baty had just bought a new home with his partner Charlotte in a townhouse on the same estate as his parents in Aykley Heads, Durham.

The Northumbria University law graduate had recently left his job as a senior associate with the Oliver Parks recruitment consultancy in Newcastle to become business development manager with Thomas Howard’s company.

Mr Howard established workwear brand Customise It Now in 2015 with his partner Emma Hindmarch, who he lived with in Langley Moor, Durham. The inquest, which is expected to conclude later today, continues.


  1. Yuk Tuk drivers should be licensed and accountable. This free-for-all
    unregulated business is sometimes carried on by criminals and back street sharks. Let alone tourists, even sri lankan’s have bad experiences. Though meters are compulsory, many operators disregard this. Just visit Nugegoda shopping area, Bambalapitiya near Majectic city etc., etc.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here