11 Nov 2008

Inquest begins into 1996 bar death

8:26 pm on 11 November 2008

An inquest has begun into the death of a man at a strip bar in Christchurch 12 years ago.

Barry Coleman died after falling down a flight of stairs at Wicked Willies in December 1996.

Night club owner Gregory Mather was charged with murder, but police later amended the charge to manslaughter.

In August 1997, all charges were dropped after a private investigator found flaws in the case.

Lawyers for two witnesses asked for the inquest to be adjourned, saying they need more time to review the evidence.

However, chief coroner, Judge Neil MacLean, said the 12-year delay in dealing with the case was already too long and ordered the inquest to proceed.

Detective Sergeant Mark Reid told the inquest that there were blood splashes at head height on the wall of the stairwell, as well as a hand print.

He said Mr Coleman may have slipped and hit his head after putting his hand out to stop his fall.

Pathologist Martin Sage said blood splashes at head height on the wall of the night club suggested he might have been pitched from the top of the stairs or picked up and slammed into the wall.

The inquest was told that Mr Coleman had been assaulted at the night club in the hours before his death.