Coroner rejects family’s $ 2000 mugging theory over road death

Richard James Johnson died after he was hit by a car on Huxley St in Christchurch in July 2017.

GEORGE HEARD / STUFF / Stuff

Richard James Johnson died after he was hit by a car on Huxley St in Christchurch in July 2017.

A coroner has rejected a family’s concerns that a man killed when he was hit by a car while lying in a Christchurch road may have been mugged of $ 2000 in cash before his death.

The money was withdrawn from Richard James Johnson ‘s bank account the day before his death, but was never found.

Johnson’s family claimed he may have been lying in the road on the night of July 11, 2017 because he had been mugged.

But in a recently released report, coroner Bruce Hesketh ruled Johnson was lying in the road either because he had tripped or suffered a convulsion due to alcohol withdrawal and collapsed. He ruled the death was accidental.

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The coroner said Johnson’s family had raised concerns about “withdrawals of money from his bank account, in particular a $ 2,000 withdrawal from his bank account on 10 July 2017”.

“The concerns raised were around potential fraud or coercion by others that Mr Johnson withdraw and hand over money to others (unknown) or spend money on alcohol for more than just himself.

“There was a particular concern that the withdrawal of the $ 2,000 may have been stolen from him on 10 or 11 July 2017 as it was not located, and the family could not understand why he would withdraw such a large amount and not account for it.

There was also concern that perhaps Johnson had been mugged of the money just before his death. “This has been raised as a possible explanation of why he was lying on the road when hit by the passing car,” the coroner said.

“I am not satisfied that is the case.”

The coroner ruled the death was accidental.

GEORGE HEARD / STUFF / Stuff

The coroner ruled the death was accidental.

Hesketh said he agreed with the police’s view that the money was likely to have been withdrawn to purchase a flight to the United Kingdom to visit his mother.

He cited official records stating Johnson was planning a trip to the UK.

“The difficulty is it would not be possible to determine [at] which, if any travel agency the money was spent. If he had purchased a ticket through a travel agency then that would explain why no ticket was located as it is likely he had yet to uplift the ticket, given the timing of events. “

Johnson died at the scene after he was hit by a car while lying in Huxley Rd in Christchurch, the coroner ruled.

“At around 9:30 pm on 11 July 2017 … Johnson left his unit to buy milk from a Mobil service station situated across the other side of Huxley Rd, ” the coroner wrote.

“As he was crossing Huxley Rd he either collapsed unconscious or tripped and fell on the roadway. Shortly afterward he was struck by a car … [that] had turned right into Huxley Rd from the Colombo St intersection. “

The coroner said the poor weather and Johnson's dark clothes meant the driver did not see him lying in the road.

GEORGE HEARD / STUFF / Stuff

The coroner said the poor weather and Johnson’s dark clothes meant the driver did not see him lying in the road.

The coroner said the driver did not see Johnson lying on the road due to the inclement weather and the dark clothing Johnson was wearing.

The report stated that no alcohol was in Johnson’s blood or urine when he died.

Hesketh said the alcohol finding was important as Johnson was an alcoholic, but had been making an effort to reduce his alcohol consumption.

“By doing so he was vulnerable to seizures, at least three (possibly four) of which had been witnessed in the past, ” Hesketh said.

Alcoholics are often vulnerable to seizures when they stop drinking alcohol.

The coroner also found that the driver of the car did not drink alcohol, take illicit drugs, and was not on any prescribed medication. He was also driving within the speed limit.

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