Blanket Man died of heart attack - inquest

Last updated 11:30 11/12/2012
Fairfax NZ

Ben Hana, also known as Blanket Man showed the well-known Wellington vagrant died from a heart attack.

Blanket Man
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
Ben Hana, better known as Blanket Man, died of a sudden heart attack, a coroner's inquest has revealed.

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Wellington's Ben Hana, also known as Blanket Man, may have lived his life on the streets, but he died in hospital after a heart attack brought on by what was thought to be viral myocarditis.

A post-mortem showed alcohol toxicity and an enlarged heart.

Well-known both at home and internationally, his image was of a thin, ragged man in a loin cloth surrounded by a grubby blanket.

Coroner Garry Evans held an inquest because he died in hospital and was under a community treatment order after he had been diagnosed schizophrenic.

There had been concerns about his health for some time before he was thought to be unwell on January 5 and seen by a doctor.

Police had been asked to find Mr Hana, who was 54, on January 12 after a blood test showed a life-threatening electrolyte disturbance, including low potassium and sodium and nutrient deficiencies.

Mr Hana agreed to go to hospital to be treated, but died three days later.

Mr Evans delivered his finding today. The inquest was attended by friends, two of his children and lawyer Maxine Dixon, who had taken his part in court for many years.

He said the cause of death was considered natural.

Some of the findings were not unusual, like the nutrient deficiency, which came from a diet mostly of alcohol, he said.

Mr Evans said Mr Hana was treated as needed and he always wanted to remain independent, preferring to be homeless. Even in hospital, would sit on the floor and was heedless of his personal hygenie.

He said Mr Hana was only minimally communicative and did not want help, but accepted that as part of the treatment order he was to receive it.

Mr Evans was satisfied that Mr Hana not only received good medical treatment but also support from his friends but preferred to live his idiosyncratic lifestyle.

He was well-known to police. Inquest officer Carmen Stewart said he had appeared in court many times, mainly for alcohol and drug offences.

His change from family man to homeless person was spurred, in part, by a series of personal disasters, including killing his friend while drink-driving. "[It's] something I can't talk about," he told the Dominion Post in 2010.

Outside court, Ms Dixon said she did not want to challenge the coroner's finding and thought it was a sad end to an iconic man.

Mr Hana's family did not want to comment.

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- The Dominion Post

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