A YOUNG man who went to bed and never woke up could have died as a result of sleep apnoea and a irregular heartbeat, a coroner heard.

Christopher Harper, aged 26, was found dead in bed at his Peel Street, Westhoughton, home by his mother on the afternoon of March 3.

The same sleep condition killed his uncle at the age of 29, Bolton Coroners Court heard.

Area coroner Alan Walsh said: “It is very, very sad that, in a family, there should be two of these sudden and unexpected deaths.

“I have sat here nearly 13 years and I have not heard of a case like Christopher and his uncle.”

Mr Harper’s mother Jeanette Harper told the court that her son was obese as a result of pain from osteoarthritis in his knee, caused by a footballing injury.

The pain meant he could not continue working as a builder and tiler.

Mrs Harper said that, returning from her night shift in a care home just after 8am, she checked her son’s bedroom and assumed he was asleep.

But when she went into his room again at 4.30pm and he still had not moved, she realised something was wrong. She called paramedics but her son had already died.

Mrs Harper said her son snored and she believed he had sleep apnoea, a condition in which people stop breathing temporarily and is usually associated with those who are overweight.

It was a condition she said had killed her brother.

In a statement Mr Harper’s friend, Christian Legg, who shared a bedroom with him, said the night before he died the pair of them had played computer games and watched TV.

But when he woke in the morning Mr Harper said he was still tired and was going back to sleep.

Pathologist Dr David Bisset said there was no evidence of injury or natural disease, although there were pain-killing drugs and cannabis in Mr Harper’s system.

He said: “The likelihood is he died of abnormal cardiac rhythm and his weight has contributed to this.

“It does sound as if he did have sleep apnoea. It is an increasingly common phenomenon and one we see from time to time.”

Mr Walsh recorded a verdict of natural causes.