Porton Down chemical warfare expert who investigated cause of Grenfell fire is found dead

Porton Down chemical warfare expert who investigated cause of Grenfell fire found dead at his £400,000 home had taken overdose, inquest hears

  • James Breach, 55, told ambulance that he had an overdose, an inquest heard
  • The father-of-two was found in the lounge in his home five months ago
  • He conducted the Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety 
  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org  

A former Porton Down chemical warfare expert who investigated fire safety after the Grenfell Tower tragedy was found dead in his home in Wiltshire, an inquest heard. 

James Breach had been conducting the Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the London blaze which killed 72 people and led to a sweeping reform of regulations in tower blocks. 

The 55-year-old who still worked as a civil servant at the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities told the ambulance service, while making a 999 call, that he had taken an overdose. 

Paramedics rushes to his £400,000 home in the small village of Winterslow, near Salisbury, and found the father-of-two’s body in his lounge. 

James Breach had been conducting the Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the London blaze (the fire in 2017, pictured) which killed 72 people and led to a sweeping reform of regulations in tower blocks

James Breach had been conducting the Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the London blaze (the fire in 2017, pictured) which killed 72 people and led to a sweeping reform of regulations in tower blocks 

An inquest at Salisbury, Wiltshire, was told civil servant James Andrew Breach died on February 13 after making a call stating he had taken an overdose.

An ambulance went to his home immediately and when paramedics arrived they found him unresponsive in the lounge.

He was confirmed dead at 2.45pm by paramedics in his home and identified later by his wife Samantha Breach.

Toxicology tests have shown he died from propranolol toxicity and his inquest has been adjourned. 

Wiltshire Police said: ‘There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances.’

His department confirmed Mr Breach was still employed by them at the time of his death. A spokesperson said: ‘It would not be appropriate to say anything now, We will speak when the inquest is completed.’ 

The 55-year-old who still worked as a civil servant at the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities told the ambulance service, while making a 999 call, that he had taken an overdose. Pictured: Porton Down near Salisbury where Mr Breach also worked

The 55-year-old who still worked as a civil servant at the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities told the ambulance service, while making a 999 call, that he had taken an overdose. Pictured: Porton Down near Salisbury where Mr Breach also worked 

He also previously ran a BioSense programme for government agency the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which is based in Salisbury. 

This involved overseeing £4 to £6million per year into research into multiple technologies to deliver Biological Warfare Agent detection. 

Speaking about his work on LinkedIn, Mr Breach said: ‘As project manager and technical lead for a CWA detector I was presented with what had been an insoluble problem. 

‘Within a month I had solved the issue with a solution that is patented. This patent has been used in between £0.5billion and £1billion UK sales.’

Yesterday neighbours were still shocked at the death of Mr Breach who had also been a member of the Winterslow Drama group.

A near neighbour, who said he had lived there for about 12 years, said: ‘He did not mix very much. It was just him there. We suddenly saw the ambulance there and learnt he was dead.’

His bungalow in a sleepy private road has been sold and renamed. 

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