BBC Engineer Marked as First Vaping Related Suicide in Britain
A contractor for BBC television was discovered dead in the living room of his Chesham, Buckinghamshire flat after mixing e-cigarette liquid and alcohol, and then drinking it. His girlfriend reportedly discovered his body next to a pile of empty cans and eliquid. The deceased is Jonathan Keen, a 46-year-old described by loved ones as a functioning alcoholic. Family members said that Keen started vaping as a substitute for smoking and that he regularly mixed his own nicotine liquids to use in vaping devices.
The coroner for Buckinghamshire, Richard Hulett, determined that Mr. Keen’s death was a suicide and he reports that this is the first time he has seen someone die as the result of an ingesting eliquid in Britain.
Jonathan Keen worked with the IT firm Atos as a broadcast systems engineer. This firm did a lot of work for the BBC network. Mr. Keen had a professional LinkedIn page in which he stated that he loved his job, and as an employee, he was reliable and honest.
Keen’s girlfriend, Vanessa, found his body after she decided to visit his flat because she grew worried over not hearing from him in the last 24 hours. Emergency services were dispatched to the flat and it was there that personnel pronounced the BBC contractor as dead at the scene. As police officers searched his flat, they looked in the trash bin and on the kitchen table where they found suicide notes written and left by the deceased.
Detective Constable Edward Blackburn said that investigators first suspected that Keen had ingested the eliquids when they found a clear liquid near his nose. The toxicology reports revealed that Keen had very high alcohol levels and nicotine levels that were near lethal. Dr. Peter Johnson, a pathologist, concluded that the cause of Mr. Keen’s death was due to alcohol and nicotine toxicity.
After receiving reports of Keen’s autopsy, his brother spoke out against vaping. “What my brother did was very unusual. He used to manufacture his own liquids himself… He was clever so he knew how toxic it was. The fact that my brother should use it this way shows it is a deadly poison and needs to be controlled.”
However, coroner reports indicate that Keen made a very intentional choice to commit suicide. It was not an accidental nicotine overdose. “We have a note here that talks about being sorry and talking about who gets what. That is the sort of thing people write at a very late stage,” Hulette said. “For whatever reason, his frame of mind that night became very negative. He was intoxicated and seemed to be cross about things… Looking at his notes and the toxicology, he got into a frame of mind where he decided to do this. What he was feeling was quite negative.”
This tragic death has prompted officials to further look into the safety of vaping devices, which are largely promoted as a safe alternative to smoking in the UK.