Former Sutton Coldfield school principal found dead after taking drugs in the middle of a diabetic fight

An ‘inspiring’ former headmaster was found dead after taking drugs in the middle of fights to deal with his diabetes, a study reads.

John Farrell, former principal of Bishop Walsh Catholic School in Sutton Coldfield, was unfortunately spotted on a bedroom floor by a friend on the morning of August 16th.

The ketamine and methamphetamines he had taken shortly before had a “contagious effect” on his diabetes, leading to his death, the Birmingham Coroner’s Court heard.

Read more: Tribute to former Sutton Coldfield principal John Farrell, whose death ‘shocked’ school trust

Assistant forensic pathologist Ian Dreelan recounted how Mr. Farrell had a history of poor management of his serious condition and substance abuse.

It became increasingly difficult to manage his diabetes after his right leg was amputated due to diabetes in May 2021, just months before his death, the study in Birmingham was told on Monday (November 15).

Doctors had also referred to his drug use and depression after the life-changing surgery.

“He had clearly mismanaged his insulin levels, and that led him to a very similar incident, but on that occasion he lived to tell the story,” the forensic pathologist said, referring to a previous incident.

“He struggled to get the balance right. He had been pretty good at managing it, but it got harder to do. The amputation had a profound effect on it.

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“On August 16, he was found dead lying on a bedroom floor by a friend.”

His autopsy revealed that he “used drugs shortly before his death,” which contributed to complications with his diabetes.

His cause of death was recorded as hypoglycemia, caused by diabetes and the use of ketamine and methamphetamine.

Sir. Farrell had been principal at Bishop Walsh for ten years and had previously been assistant principal at the nearby St Edmund Campion Catholic School in Erdington.

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Both schools are part of St. John Paul II Multi Academy, where Mr. Farrell served as Catholic senior leader after leaving his role as rector of Bishop Walsh.

He came from Sunderland but moved to the Midlands to study at Birmingham University in 1984, where he studied history and then his Post Graduate Certificate in Education in History Geography and PE before becoming a teacher.

Bishop Walsh Catholic School has previously paid tribute to their former principal.



Bishop Walsh Catholic School, Sutton Coldfield

An earlier statement said: “Mr Farrell made a huge contribution to thousands of lives in a long and distinguished career. His family is requesting privacy at this time.”

A former Bishop Walsh student, Paul Fleming, had said: “Mr. Farrell was an inspiring teacher, radical Catholic and rude socialist. His heart-on-sleeve humanity separated him.

“Like many of my teachers at Bishop Walsh, I owe him so much.”

Other former students also praised Mr. Farrell’s teaching.

Michael Baker said, “Heartbreaking. An incredible teacher, school leader and employer who inspired me to become a teacher. May he rest in peace.”

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