A “LOVEABLE rogue” was drowned by the incoming tide in Newquay after having his head stamped on in a street brawl and drunkenly stumbling over a 100ft cliff.
Luke Griffin, 21, was on a night out with 19 pals as part of an end-of-season football tour last summer when the “best night ever” turned into a nightmare.
Truro Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that the popular builder had downed four cans of lager and snorted five lines of cocaine on the minibus from Stroud, Gloucestershire, on Friday, June 1.
The night began well as the lads hit the resort’s bars and pubs, while one passer-by recalled Mr Griffin smiling to himself and mumbling that he was having a “wicked night”.
He even posed for a photo with a holiday-maker and his grand-daughter.
But by 10pm the situation had descended into chaos as Mr Griffin lost his friends and picked a fight with a partially disabled stroke victim on Towan beach, before ending up in a violent scuffle with two men in the public car park on Beach Road, below the Walkabout Bar.
He was later seen stumbling into a cliff-top private garden on Trebarwith Crescent, close to his accommodation at Reef Island Surf Lodge, after which he fell over a wall and onto Great Western beach below.
Experts later discovered he was still alive when he hit the ground, but was soon drowned by the incoming tide. His body was found by a dog-walker at 8.30am the next day.
Mr Griffin’s friends and family frequently broke down as the circumstances surrounding his death were revealed during the six hour inquest.
At the end of the hearing, deputy coroner Andrew Cox made a passionate plea for youngsters visiting Newquay to act responsibly.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, he said: “Luke isn’t the first young man who has died in Newquay falling over cliffs after consuming too much alcohol or drugs. I don’t want to have any more distressed family and friends appearing before me, mourning the loss of a youngster. This won’t change unless the culture of drinking to excess also changes. Come to Newquay, have a good time but drink responsibly and get home safely.”
Paying tribute to her beloved grandson, Angela Earwaker, 63, said: “He was a lovable rogue; kind, caring and compassionate and a hard worker. He just got player of the year [with Leonard Stanley AFC]. We collected his trophy after he passed away. Everyone that knew Luke thought he was lovely. They just loved his smile – that’s how we want to remember him.”
A post mortem examination revealed Luke was more than two and a half times over the legal drink-drive limit for alcohol, and had recently used cannabis as well as cocaine.
Fellow footballers Andrew Sargent, Jordan Measures, Daniel Glyn and Piers Versaci all reported Mr Griffin had been in good spirits. Mr Versaci said: “He was happy. We were all having the best weekend that we’ve had together ever.”
Yet stroke victim Russell Daniels said his encounter with Mr Griffin - who had lost the rest of the group - on Towan beach at around 10pm was far from happy.
He told the court: “He growled or mumbled something. He said ‘where’s Dan? What the f*** have you done with him’ and with that he started trying to hit me. He was dancing like a boxer around me. I thought I was going to get the kicking of my life.”
Mr Daniels’s friend, James Forrest, spotted what was happening and tackled the pair to the ground before restraining Mr Griffin and throwing sand in his face. Mr Daniels also described punching his assailant twice in the face, breaking his nose.
The pair walked back up the beach slipway, followed by Mr Griffin, who was “spitting blood”, and then told two lads nearby what had happened. They claim Mr Griffin then confronted the two unidentified men in the Beach Road car park.
However, eye-witness Gloria Jane, who was having a cigarette outside Chy Bar over the road, believed Mr Griffin was trying to avoid a fight.
She told the court: “It looked like he was trying to get away. Then they started swinging punches and Luke was knocked to the floor. It was horrible. One of them was stomping on his head. I was amazed at what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe someone could do that. I just shouted as loud as I could and the two ran off.”
Police were called to the scene but Mr Griffin refused to divulge what had happened. He was taken to the Street Safe cabin for medical assistance, but refused help and walked off towards the tram tracks, near Trebarwith Crescent, where he was seen on CCTV apparently lost and agitated.
Holiday-maker Mark Sutton, who was sitting on the balcony of his holiday apartment, described watching Mr Griffin later emerge onto Trebarwith Crescent before stumbling towards the private cliff-top garden near the Trebarwith Hotel.
Detective Sergeant Sharon Donald said “depressions” had been found on vegetation close to the cliff-top wall, indicating someone had moved through it. She also revealed Mr Griffin, who had been placed on the child protection register as a youngster, had previous convictions for “unprovoked violence”.
The official cause of Mr Griffin’s death was said to be “drowning while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine following a recent head injury”. It remains unclear which of the injuries he sustained in the cliff fall and which were caused by the assault.
The two men who stamped on Mr Griffin were never located. Mr Daniels and Mr Forrest were arrested on suspicion of assault but were later released without charge.