Family’s concerns over Rustington ‘machete attacker’ prison death

A Rustington man accused of attacking a former neighbour with a machete, who died in prison, was likely to have died of natural causes, a coroner has said.

A pre-inquest review into the death of Finlay Finlayson on January 25 this year was held at Eastbourne Coroner’s Court on Thursday.

Armed police at the machete attack incident in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington, on Christmas Eve 2018

Armed police at the machete attack incident in Lawrence Avenue, Rustington, on Christmas Eve 2018

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Coroner Alan Craze said a post-mortem carried out by Home Office pathologist Charlotte Randall ‘pointed to natural causes of death’.

The report, read out in court, said that Mr Finlayson died of a blood clot as a result of deep vein thrombosis. He also had cancer.

But because the family had concerns about the circumstances in which Mr Finlayson died, Mr Craze said: “My instinct in this case is to say that if there are sufficient question marks, I should sit with a jury.”

The 54-year-old, of Lawrence Avenue, Rustington, was shot with a rubber bullet by armed police following the incident on Christmas Eve last year.

Tom Rowland, 46, was visiting former neighbours to swap Christmas presents when he was attacked.

Earlier this year, he told the Gazette he felt a ‘wack’ on his head and raised his forearm to defend himself and the blade got wedged in the bone, giving him enough time to punch his assailant.

He said: “The only reason I could knock him out was because he kept yanking on it to get it out. It was the only time I had to swing.”

Mr Finlayson was charged with attempted murder and two counts of possession of a knife and remanded in custody at Lewes Prison.

He had not entered a guilty or not guilty plea before he died.

At the time, a neighbour – who did not want to be identified for fear of persecution – said they felt ‘shocked to know something so dangerous was happening right on their doorstep’.

Toxicology reports, also read out by Mr Craze, found no alcohol in Mr Finlayson’s system when he died, but traces of morphine, diazepam – formerly branded as Valium – anti-psychotic drugs and other painkillers were present.

Mr Finlayson’s sister and son were present during proceedings, with the latter saying he had suffered badly with anxiety since his father died.

Witnesses whose evidence was set to be heard included the A&E doctor who treated Mr Finlayson after he was shot by the rubber bullet, prison officers and nurses who treated Mr Finlayson after he fell in his cell on the day he died.

A date was not set for the jury inquest.