zzzzuntitledA top showbusiness reporter was drinking a bottle of Cointreau a day when he was found dead on the floor of his home, an inquest heard.

Former Daily Mail and OK! Magazine journalist Lester Middlehurst, 55, was also a heavy cocaine user and was addicted to sleeping pills.

Mr Middlehurst, who was drinking at least 350 units of alcohol a week, was taken to hospital but had suffered massive heart attack and irreversible brain damage.

Paramedics battled to revive him but he died at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, on November 26, 2010.

Westminster Coroner’s Court officer Sharon Marshall told the hearing: ‘He was a well-known celebrity journalist for the Daily Mail and OK! Magazine.

‘He suffered for many years from depression which was masked by his large consumption of alcohol and cocaine and negated the effect of any medication.

‘He was also addicted to sleeping tablets.

‘He was lonely and yearned to be in a long-term relationship, but met a string of unsuitable partners.

‘He had a reputation as one of the county’s top celebrity journalists.’

In a statement read at the inquest, paramedic Steve Read said: ‘On November 24, 2010, I was a member of an ambulance team dispatched to a 55-year-old male in cardiac arrest.

‘We arrived at the scene and were met by a distressed female who directed us to the male.

‘The woman stated she was a house guest and had found him that morning.

‘He had his head in the dog bowl and had vomited.’

Liverpool-born Mr Middlehurst’s heart had stopped but paramedics were able to get it beating again at the flat in Battersea High Street, southwest London.

A post-mortem examination showed he had suffered from diffuse brain swelling as a result of oxygen deprivation.

The journalist was also suffering from an enlarged heart and a ‘fatty’ liver.

Pathologist Dr Peter Wilkins said: ‘We know that when people have an enlarged heart they are at risk of developing a sudden irregularity in their heart beat.

‘The only other finding of significance in the post-mortem was a fatty liver which would be consistent with prolonged alcohol ingestion.’

At this point a member of Mr Middlehurst’s family told the court: ‘He was drinking about a bottle of Cointreau a day – plus wine.’’

Mr Middlehurst is believed to have gone into semi-retirement after receiving a substantial family inheritance several years ago.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: ‘Lester Middlehurst, only 55-years-old, had obviously had a fascinating and interesting life with his journalistic work.

‘But, obviously underneath it all he had suffered quite considerable with depression, anxiety and concerns about his personal life and had quite a lot of concerns about that area.

‘He was found collapsed in November by a friend and tragically all be it he was resuscitated by London Ambulance Service he had suffered irreversible brain damage and he did in hospital.

‘I will therefore record that Lester Middlehurst has died as a result of hypoxic brain damage.’

Verdict: Natural causes.

At the time of his death former colleague and the Daily Mail’s showbusiness diarist Baz Bamigboye said: ‘It’s beyond sad. Lester lit up the newsroom. He was so wickedly funny, though so disruptive!

‘I remember picking him up from his seat and carrying him to the lift because he was being so badly behaved!

‘I miss how he could come in from a crazy night out and interview some actress or TV star for hours and he’d get them to confide in him.

‘The trick was that he listened to what people said and he listened to their inner voices too. That was his special gift.”