In July 2011, Roland and his partner Hazel went on a camping trip to the Norfolk Broads.
After spending the day canoeing along the Broads, the couple bought some sausages to cook on their charcoal barbeque. They finished dinner at around 8:30pm and spent the rest of their evening reading. Having packed their things into the tent, they also brought in the barbecue as it had finished burning and they didn’t want it to be stolen or rained on.
In the morning Roland woke up in agony. He was disorientated, dizzy and could barely move. He had no idea what time it was or what had happened to him. After a few minutes he managed to look over at Hazel, she had foam around her mouth and when he tried to wake her she made no response. She was dead.
Roland called out for help, for what seemed like hours. Still in extreme pain and unable to move, he managed to locate his phone to call 999. He couldn’t remember where he was so the operator encouraged him to leave his tent. While struggling with pain it took him about ten minutes to crawl the few meters to get out of his tent. Luckily an off-duty police offer was passing by and managed to help get Roland the urgent care he needed.
When the police arrived they arrested Roland for attempted murder:
“Being arrested for murdering the one person you truly love was the worst moment of my life. Hearing those words was heart-breaking and for just a split second I even feared ‘what if I have?’ I was so disorientated and dizzy I had no idea how I got into that state or what had happened to me. When they took me to the hospital I was so dehydrated from the poisoning, they struggled to take my blood as they could not locate a vein. In the end they had to take nail samples to test me for drug taking. The police stayed with me in the hospital until the results came back that I had been poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO).”
The police immediately retracted the arrest. Looking back, I don’t blame them at all for arresting me and they were extremely apologetic for having to do so when I had just lost Hazel.”
Roland was in hospital for four weeks with the first two in intensive care. One of his arms had inflamed to twice its size and the doctors debated whether to amputate it. Eventually they cut it open to relieve the pressure and swelling. Roland had eight operations in total – two to open up his arm and six to close it back up again. He also had to undergo a blood transfusion, after one of the operations caused him to bleed heavily. He was taken into hyperbaric chambers three times to have pressurised oxygen pushed into his tissues and blood, which is treatment for severe CO poisoning.
“I was off work for five months and had 65 stitches removed from my many operations. I suffered from severe limb trauma. I’ve had physiotherapy and hydrotherapy and all while still trying to come to terms with losing Hazel. In the first year I took over 10,000 pain killers and my arm is still very painful.”
Camping feels like a home away from home for most people and as a result, they feel safe using their own equipment and belongings. The last thing people want to think about when they arrive at a campsite is setting up a CO alarm or checking the ventilation of their tent. They want to unpack and pitch up as quickly as possible, so that they can relax. Both Hazel and I have science degrees. We were both working in forensics, but neither of us even considered an unlit and cold barbecue would let off CO which could kill. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the dangers of CO so that no more lives are lost.”