A ROUGH sleeper collapsed on the street and later died in hospital after smoking just one or two puffs of a “spice” cigarette, an inquest heard.

Richard Power, 44, who was also known as Lionel, collapsed at around 3am on June 17 last year on the steps of Boots in North Street, Brighton.

He died four days later in the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton having never regained consciousness.

He had been smoking spice, a form of synthetic cannabis, which was until last May a legal high and available to buy in shops.

Catherine Palmer, assistant coroner for Brighton and Hove, recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and warned: “Every time you touch this stuff you’re playing Russian roulette because you don’t know what you’re taking.”

The inquest at Woodvale Crematorium in Lewes Road, Brighton, heard that Mr Power was with three fellow rough sleepers when he was passed the spice joint.

It could not be confirmed how many drags he had but he collapsed almost immediately.

He was taken to hospital where doctor John Kilic tended to him. He said a CT scan showed his brain had been starved of oxygen and over the following days his condition deteriorated.

On June 21 a decision was made to stop intensive care and he died at 9.15pm that evening.

The three friends he had been with were arrested but police could not prove who supplied the spice and all were released without charge.

Pathologist Dr Mark Taylor, reading a report from Dr Anthony Williams, said there were no suspicious signs or defensive marks on the body and there were no signs of bleeding or anything else which could explain a sudden collapse.

He said the cause of death was hypoxic brain injury following cardiac arrest in the setting of synthetic cannabis use.

Forensic toxicologist Emma Pagdin said chemicals found in Mr Power’s blood were consistent with smoking spice.

Mr Power, unemployed, had been staying at the YMCA at William Collier House in North Road, Brighton, after a long period of homelessness.

His sister Sharon Baker, from Lydd, Kent, said after the hearing: “He was a bit of a character.

“He was always joking and playing around, he just always lifted everyone’s spirits and he loved everybody. It’s so sad.”