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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 25th June 2015

Just a quick couple of paragraphs, for now, about the ridiculous stories in the media following the inquest on Nathan Greenaway.

If you didn't read my previous post about this unfortunate man you might start there because nothing that came out at the inquest changes anything I wrote then.

I'll try and write more about this when I can but for now I'll just say that the inquest recorded an open verdict because the coroner said it could not be shown that Aconitum napellus, monkshood, played a role. An expert witness testified that the symptoms experienced were not those caused by Aconitum.

Aconitum napellus did not cause this tragic death and those people who are saying or writing that it did should be ashamed of themselves. And those people who are adding to the misinformation and hysteria because they think they can make money as a result should be even more ashamed of themselves.

I had hoped to be writing about my trip to Wales to talk about and officially open the wonderful new Poison Garden at Bryngwyn Hall. I'll try and get to that tomorrow.

Let's try and flesh out the above a little bit. You could try seeing what I had to say for the ITV Meridian regional news. A word of explanation. The footage on that page is the as recorded interview I did at Granada TV. You can't hear the questions very well because the idea was to get the local presenter to record them and replace the Granada guy who asked me.

Unfortunately, ITV doesn't make its news programmes available on catchup so I can't link to the finished article.

In passing, I should say that ITV Meridian did ask if they could use some of my video to illustrate the first piece on that page. Unlike the Mailonline that just ripped off one of my YouTube videos without asking.

 I have seen quotes from the inquest provided by a news agency but not available online. Among these are statements from witnesses;

• "he would not have been touching the Monkwood[sic]. He could have brushed past them, but he would not have been handling the plant."

• "there are not a large number of people coming to hospital with aconite poisoning."

• "I am unable to say aconite poisoning was more likely than not the underlying trigger for death"

And these from the coroner;

• "He did not actually handle the plant."

• "The cause of death is multiple organ failure of unknown cause [emphasis added]"

Mr. Greenaway was admitted to hospital on 28th August and died on 7th September from multi-organ failure. Aconitum does not cause multi-organ failure and it certainly does not take ten days to be lethal, if a large enough dose is involved.

During his time in hospital, doctors tried many theories as to the cause of his illness but none explained his condition. Aconitum poisoning was just the last theory to be put forward after everything more probable had been excluded.

If you read more than just this one page on this site you'll soon see that hysteria is the default response of the media to any story where a plant is mentioned. Generally they make themselves look ridiculous by the internal contradictions in their own reports.

Take the Mail's report (I'm refuse to link to it). At various points on the same page it says;

'died of multiple organ failure after 'brushing past' toxic 'Devil's helmet''


"The actual contact he had with the plant would not have supported aconite poisoning"

'died days later on September 7'


'Symptoms appear almost immediately, and with large doses death can be almost instantaneous.'

'his internal organs were failing, specifically his kidneys.'


'Initial signs include nausea and diarrhoea and can be followed by a sensation of burning, tingling and numbness in the mouth and face. Other symptoms include sweating, dizziness and difficulty breathing.'

Nathan Greenaway did not die because of Aconitum napellus. It is as simple as that. Can someone please tell me the difference between trying to terrify people by writing nonsense about the risks posed by monkshood and trying to terrify people by making videos in caves in the mountains of Afghanistan?

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