THE family of a young homeless man who took a lethal heroin overdose in a Southampton night shelter have criticised hostel workers for failing to notice his vulnerability.

Ben Richards, 29, injected himself at Patrick House in Millbrook after arriving drunk and going back out to buy the drug, an inquest heard.

He died on May 13 from a combination of heroin and heavy drinking, the coroner ruled.

His sister, Hannah Richards, said staff should have reacted to his poor condition. Blood tests revealed his blood-alcohol level was four times the drink-driving limit.

Winchester Coroner’s Court heard how Mr Richards treated his sporadic insomnia and depression with “massive intake” of alcohol and drugs.

His GP, Dr Louise Dubras, said he was “still troubled by what appeared to be post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD) after facing combat as an Army engineer.

On May 12, he was taken to Patrick House after being found drunk on the High Street, but was turned away because it was full.

Claire Stagg, team leader, described how Mr Richards, who had stayed at the hostel before, returned the next afternoon in a poor state.

“He appeared quite shell shocked,” she told the inquest. “He told me that he was really tired, he just wanted to sleep and wanted to get something to eat because he was really hungry.

“He didn’t recognise me, he wasn’t recognising members of staff.He was very detached.”

Mr Richards took heroin with three fellow lodgers that night, the inquest heard. But the alarm was raised when he Kevin Greenaway, Russell Abery and Paul Moschakis raised the alarm after Mr Richards became unresponsive.

Mr Aberty gave him a shot of opiate blocker naloxone and hostel Staff called an ambulance but doctors at Southampton General Hospital could not revive Mr Richards and he died that evening.

Ms Richards said: “Surely if he was that vulnerable you should have seen he was that vulnerable.”

Ms Stagg said that they felt it had been the right choice to provide support for Ben at the hostel by taking him in that night, adding:

: “Taking him in is a risk to anybody being in a large hostel environment, but Ben had been there before, Ben understood it and we felt it was the right choice to provide him with support for that night.

“I can only apologise for not seeing what had happened, but then there wasn’t anything that we could see when we looked back and retraced our steps.”

The Patrick House residents who the court heard took heroin with Mr Richards were arrested on suspicion of supplying it but were released without charge after evidence suggested he administered the drugs himself.

“There was no evidence anybody supplied Ben with drugs,” DC Stephen Ashe told the hearing. “The evidence that we had suggested that he obtained drugs of his own accord and administered the drugs himself.”

Senior central Hampshire coroner Grahame Short ruled out suicide, recording a verdict of drugs and alcohol related death.

After the inquest, Ms Richards told the Daily Echo: “I just feel they let him down. They need to crack down on the drug use and everything that they do there.”

Two Saints, the homeless charity which runs Patrick House, did not provide comment after being approached by the Daily Echo.