A MOTHER who has waited almost two years for an inquest into her son’s death at a York homeless centre claims a key witness has died just weeks before it is finally held next week.

Donna Clarkson’s son Joe Downes died at the Peasholme Centre in Fishergate on December 22, 2017, aged 29.

North Yorkshire Police said at the time it was treating a man’s sudden death at the centre as "unexplained" and officers were investigating.

Miss Clarkson said yesterday that her long wait for an inquest had been distressing enough but recently this was exacerbated when she heard a man who had been due to give evidence, Paul Allen, had himself died at a different homeless centre in York.

The Press reported earlier this month that Mr Allen, 51, died at the Changing Lives centre in Union Terrace on October 8 and a police investigation was under way into his apparent drug-related death.

Miss Clarkson said she understood Mr Allen had been the last person to see her son alive but the opportunity for him to be cross examined, to help discover the truth about how and why Joe died, had now been lost.

National guidance issued by the Chief Coroner states that coroners have a duty where possible to complete inquests within six months, as "unnecessary delay may cause additional anguish and distress," and the Chief Coroner must be informed when one does not take place within 12 months.

Miss Clarkson said she was also concerned about the decision to hold Joe’s four day inquest in Harrogate. Inquests into deaths in York are in the majority of cases held in York.

She said she wanted to attend the entire hearing and the choice of this venue meant she would now face an hour or so’s drive there and back each day for four consecutive days, on top of seven hours of sitting and listening to distressing evidence.

She said the hearing date in early December was also inconsiderate, coming just before Joe’s birthday, her birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of his death.

The Press asked the Coroner’s service why it had taken almost two years for Joe’s inquest to take place and whether the Chief Coroner was informed of the delay beyond 12 months, and also for confirmation that Mr Allen had originally been due to appear as a witness and why the inquest was taking place in Harrogate.

A spokeswoman for the coroner’s office said the Chief Coroner had been notified that the inquest into Mr Downes’ death was not listed within 12 months.

She said the choice of venue for the hearing was "dictated by availability and suitability" and, because of the coroner’s judicial role, no further comment could be made ahead of the inquest.