A DISTRAUGHT family today told how they fear a great grandfather died of shock after a drunk man banged on his door in the early hours.
Sunderland magistrates heard how Ben Sisterson hammered on the door of 74-year-old John Farrow, after being kicked out of a nearby friend’s house because he was so drunk.
Mr Farrow eventually answered the door at his home in Burns Avenue South, Houghton, but suffered a heart attack and died five days later.
Pathologist Dr Peter Cooper, who conducted the post-mortem examination, said Mr Farrow suffered from severe lung disease and heart disease, which he said was the primary cause of death.
However, when asked by prosecutor Sue Hirst if the heart attack could have occurred at any time, Dr Cooper said: “It could, but would be much more likely caused by stress.”
Mr Sisterson stood trial for assault of the OAP, but was cleared by magistrates, who said there was not enough proof there had been any deliberate physical contact between the pair.
The 31-year-old did not give evidence at the case because, his barrister told the court, he could not remember anything.
Today, Mr Farrow’s family told how their anguish still goes on after his death in January.
Granddaughter Sarah Wallace, 26, said: “He may well have been frightened to death.
“He had a terrifying, traumatic death. He will have been scared for his wife who was upstairs.”
Magistrates were told how Mr Sisterson had been drinking on the night of Saturday, January 19, before going to the house of friend Anthony Gaunt.
He was asked to leave due to being drunk, but returned several times, demanding to be let in.
He then started banging on the door of another neighbour, who ignored him.
The court was told Mr Gaunt’s mother, Christine, was woken up by the commotion and saw Mr Sisterson standing in the yard of the Farrows’ home and tried to phone them to warn them.
She went to check on her neighbours and found Mr Farrow on the kitchen floor, his legs tangled in his wheelchair.
He was taken to hospital where he died five days later.
Mrs Farrow told the court she and her husband were first woken at 1am by banging outside. When it was still going on at 2am, Mr Farrow went downstairs.
Mr Sisterson, formerly of Coptleigh, Houghton, was arrested inside Mr Farrow’s house and told police: “I think I’ve made a serious error going to the wrong house. I’m sorry I frightened the old man. I’m extremely concerned. I wouldn’t raise my hand or anything to an old man.”
The court was played a recording of a 999 call he made during which he asked for an ambulance – not to help Mr Farrow, but to give him a lift home. The call ended with him calling the dispatcher a ‘legend’.
Mr Sisterson’s barrister, Toby Hedworth QC, said: “Nothing this court has heard about his conduct on that evening or the early hours of that morning reflects any credit on him. He’s got himself very, very drunk. He has collapsed twice having to be got rid of, banging on people’s doors, calling emergency services, making a nuisance of himself. He clearly was, to anyone he was coming into contact with, a complete pain in the neck. There is no excuse for what he did.”
But he said that there was no evidence that contact – if any – between Sisterson and Mr Farrow was deliberate rather than accidental.
Chairman of the bench, Mrs Lindsay said: “We’ve listened to the evidence of Dr Cooper and noted that the injured party suffered a cardiac arrest, which could have happened at anytime, but was more likely to happen in a stressful situation.”
Widow Jean, 63, who found he husband of 36 years lifeless on the floor at 2.30am, said: “It’s been very upsetting all the way through. Devastating.”