Nathan Greenaway was an experienced gardener who worked on the sprawling £4m (US $ 6.4M) estate owned by former venture capitalist Ogilvie Thompson and wife Katherine at the posh Upper Froyle in Alton, Hampshire.
Last September, the 33-year-old groundsman collapsed and mysteriously fell ill while tending the plants at Thompson’s garden at Millcourt House. He was rushed to the hospital, but doctors were dumbfounded despite running a series of ‘frantic analysis’ of his blood.
The gardener died five days later from multiple organ failure, but doctors were unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis on his illness.
This month, a pre-inquest hearing was conducted and Greenaway’s father, Richard, told the coroner his son may have had contact with the poisonous plant aconitum while tending the manicured garden of the Thompsons.
The elder Greenaway, who claimed to have made extensive research on her son’s puzzling d***h, told North Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley he believes Nathan may have brushed past against the toxic plant, also known as devil’s helmet, monkshood, aconite, wolf’s bayne or women’s bayne, which was found to be growing in the garden.
The aconitum or devil’s helmet belongs to the family Ranunculaceace; species of flowering plants which are mostly extremely poisonous and can cause severe harm when taken internally or handled without gloves.
Its flowers, when touched with bare hands or ingested, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. In severe cases, its poison can cause heart and respiratory problems which may lead to d***h when left untreated.
Histopathologist Asmat Mustajab, who was also present at the pre-inquest, reported to the coroner his conclusion that Nathan Greenaway’s d***h, ”more likely than not”, may have come after his contact with the toxic flowers.
However, a lawyer representing Ogilvie Thompson argued that a plant toxicology expert is required to establish if the devil’s helmet at the millionaire’s garden is indeed the cause of the gardener’s d***h.
This may prove difficult, according to the coroner, since the blood sample taken after Greenaway’s admission at the hospital has already been destroyed. The only available sample is one that was taken after the patient’s d***h which becomes essentially useless as the aconitum toxin is so potent it can damage the internal organs within hours and can be out of the blood system in just one day, making it potentially undetectable.
A physician, Dr. Maggie Bloom, representing the Greenaways at the hearing lamented at the hospital’s disposal of the sample; citing a note in the medical records saying “all samples are to be retained.”
Greenaway’s widow, Tegan, and his parents attended the hearing, but did not make any immediate statement.
The devil’s helmet was also responsible for the d***h of Canadian actor Andre Noble in 2004 after consuming the poisonous plant by mistake during a camping. The poison extracted from aconitum was believed to have been used in ancient times to k**l wolves.
Its toxin’s notorious reputation for being extremely fatal can be traced back to old Greek mythology which says the plant grows from the saliva of three-headed dog Cerberus.