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Mouldy home no part in 'healthy' 27-year-old's death, coroner rules

‘Healthy’ 27-year-old’s death from pneumonia was not caused by the state of mould-riddled home that his family rented off private landlord, coroner rules

  • Luke Brooks’ family believe his death was caused by mould in their Oldham home
  • A coroner ruled cause of his October 2022 death was aspergillus pneumonia  

The death of a ‘healthy’ 27-year-old from pneumonia was not caused by the state of the mould-riddled home his family rented from a private landlord, a coroner has ruled.  

The family of Luke Brooks, 27, believe the mould and damp in their three-bedroom home in Oldham caused his death in October 2022.

But on Thursday senior coroner Joanne Kearsley told an inquest at Rochdale Coroner’s Court that ‘neither the disrepairs nor any damp caused or contributed to Luke’s death’.

Ms Kearsley accepted that Mr Brooks’s death was caused by aspergillus pneumonia and that aspergillus is a type of mould.

But she told the inquest: ‘It is not possible to determine the source of the aspergillus.’

The death of ‘healthy’ 27-year-old Luke Brooks was not caused by the state of the mould-riddled home he lived in, a coroner has ruled

Luke began to suffer regular colds after moving into the property in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Pictured: Patches of mould in the house where Luke lived

Mr Brooks’s mother, Patricia, told the inquest earlier this week that there were multiple problems with the house, including rainwater coming in through the roof and mould in a number of rooms, including the bathroom and her son’s bedroom.

READ MORE: Fungus was found in the lungs of a young man, 27, who collapsed and died in rented mould-infested house, coroner hears 

The inquest also heard that Mr Brooks spent most of his time in the bedroom he shared with his friend, Chris Haycock, and three dogs.

Witnesses said the room was in a state of ‘squalor’, rarely cleaned, and contained dirty crockery and food.

A pathologist told the hearing that Mr Brooks died from acute respiratory distress syndrome which was caused by aspergillus pneumonia.

But fungus expert Professor Malcolm Richardson said the black mould visible in a number of locations in the Huxley Street property, including Mr Brooks’s bedroom, was a different type – penicillium, which is not a pathogen.

The professor, a consultant clinical scientist in medical mycology, said he carried out tests at the house in April 2023, six months after Mr Brooks’s death, and found ‘very, very little’ evidence of aspergillus in the house, with just one spore found in the bedroom.

He told the court that aspergillus is commonly found in the air but thrives on rotting food and dust.

Ms Kearsley is the coroner who ruled last year that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died in Rochdale from a respiratory condition caused by mould at his home.

Luke Brooks’ sister, Sarah Brooks (centre), along with her parents, James (left) and Patricia Brooks (right), read a statement outside Rochdale Coroners Court today

Luke Brooks (pictured) died after moving into a mould-infested property in Oldham with his mother

In her formal conclusion in relation to Mr Brooks, she said: ‘While the property within which Luke resided was in need of some repairs, neither the disrepairs nor any damp caused or contributed to Luke’s death.

‘Luke predominately resided in his bedroom which was in an unsanitary condition. He also smoked roll-up cigarettes and used cannabis.

‘Due to these factors, it is not possible to determine the source of the aspergillus.’

The coroner told Mr Brooks’s family, who were present in court: ‘I do appreciate you had some genuine concerns about the property and my findings do not take away from that things did need to be done to the house.

‘What I have had to separate is whether they did or did not play a part in Luke’s death.’

She said the family was ‘quite right to raise these concerns – I absolutely understand that’.

‘I hope you understand why I have reached the conclusions I have come to,’ she said.

Ms Kearsley said Mr Brooks’s reaction to aspergillus pneumonia was ‘extreme’ given his age and with no history of any serious medical problems.

A friend of Luke’s told the inquest his room was ‘freezing’ and had black mould on the walls and ceiling

A photograph used in evidence at the court showing the conditions of the house where Luke lived

Luke’s mother said the property was ‘always cold and damp’ when they moved in in 2014. Pictured: Mould growing on the window sills of the property

Pictured: A photograph entered into evidence appearing to show mould growing on a wall inside the house

Speaking outside court, Mr Brooks’s sister, Sarah, said: ‘The place we lived in wasn’t good to live in.

‘It didn’t feel like a real home, no matter how hard we tried.

‘For three years there was no proper heating, and it was so cold that you could see your breath when you talked.

‘Even though the coroner didn’t find direct proof that the house caused Luke’s death, we want to talk about the problems we faced.’

Ms Brooks said the family ‘felt ignored’ by environmental health officers and described how her mother told Oldham Council that the family needed to be housed somewhere else before someone died.

She said: ‘Things need to change.

‘Many people live in houses with mould but they’re scared to say anything because they worry their landlord will kick them out. Tenants should feel safe speaking up about their living conditions.’

Ms Brooks, who was flanked by her mother, Patricia, and father, James, said: ‘Our Luke was really something special.

Pictured: Luke’s mother Patricia (left), father James (right) and friend Chris Haycock (centre) leave Rochdale Coroner’s Court on Monday

‘He had so many talents like drawing, cooking, singing and playing the piano.

‘He didn’t always realise how amazing he was, but he was also really smart. We loved him a lot.’

Luke’s mother said he was ‘fit and healthy’ when they first moved into the property. 

But he began suffering from regular colds, and she begged the local council to find them somewhere else to live ‘before somebody died, she told the inquest previously.

Mr Brooks’ symptoms began with a rash and a chest infection and he phoned 111, where an advisor recommended he visit A&E. 

After a series of calls, he said that he would visit his GP on Monday. 

According to his mother, his condition seemed to improve, but on October 22 he unexpectedly suffered a seizure, and although an ambulance was called he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

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