Cocaine seized by police in Huanchaco, Peru. (Reuters)
Cocaine seized by police in Huanchaco, Peru Reuters

A would-be drugs mule who swallowed 25 bags of liquid cocaine in Peru died when it leaked into his stomach, an inquest in Kent has heard.

Paul Fogarty, 38, was discovered dead in a hotel room with half a kilogram of cocaine in his body.

Fogarty, from Cliftonville, Kent, fell ill after swallowing the bags before his planned flight back to the UK. He made a series of desperate telephone calls to his girlfriend before dying, several hours later, in his room from cocaine poisoning.

Melissa Lewis – Fogarty's girlfriend – said he called her five times on the day of his death in June 2011.

"From first to last there was a deterioration in how he was," she said. "I didn't understand what he was saying but I knew he was in trouble. He was asking for help. He was a scared Paul. That was a side of him I had never seen or heard before."

Fogarty also called his mother. Fogarty's sister, Sheree McNamee, also gave evidence.

"He told my mother he'd missed his flight, " she said. "He said he was in trouble and needed to get home."

McNamee revealed to the inquest, which took place in Canterbury, Kent, that Fogarty had previously been sentenced to five years in prison for drug offences.

Assistant North East Kent coroner Christopher Morris concluded: "Paul was scared and in some kind of trouble. Tragically we know Paul was found dead in his hotel room. I'm satisfied that on balance 25 packets were ingested by Paul, who was smuggling them out of the country."

The inquest's verdict was death by misadventure.

According to research by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, around 743,000 people took cocaine between 2013 and 2014.

The statistics indicate 2.4% of 16 to 59-year-olds took the drug, compared with just 0.6% in 1996.

The ACMD said use of the drug had significantly increased "in areas classed as 'comfortably off'."