Wollongong death from infection followed assault

A Wollongong man who died of a lung infection caused by a fractured rib was assaulted multiple times in the weeks before his death, an inquest has heard.

Neighbours found Steven Barry Borg, 38, unresponsive in his Corrimal Street unit on January 22, 2011.

An autopsy found one of his ribs had been fractured, and, left untreated, it had caused a fatal lung infection.

The inquest heard Mr Borg was the victim of several assaults before his death, any of which could have caused the fracture, estimated at two to seven days old when he died.

Deputy State Coroner Geraldine Beattie on Monday said witnesses had told investigators Mr Borg's ex-partner repeatedly assaulted him, even slamming his head into a wall three days before he died.

The woman denied the allegations when interviewed by police.

Ms Beattie said she was unable to recommend charges be laid because she did not consider the witnesses reliable enough due their history of substance abuse.

Ms Beattie also pointed to two other occasions in which Mr Borg either claimed to have been assaulted, or witnesses saw him in a poor state of health.

She said Mr Borg's brother said he had been "bashed up pretty badly" in early January and was "coughing up blood".

A week before his death Mr Borg was hospitalised after being bashed as he returned home from using the Cliff Road payphone.

Doctors who X-rayed Mr Borg's body didn't detect any fracture at the time. However, the court heard the fracture's location would have been hard to find due to shading of the body in the X-ray procedure.

Mr Borg left hospital before receiving any treatment.

The fracture was only picked up during a post-death physical examination of his body.

Ms Beattie also said it was possible Mr Borg may have self-inflicted the injuries by accident, acknowledging that drugs and alcohol "played a significant role" in Mr Borg's lifestyle.

She said she was unable to conclusively rule which assault may have caused Mr Borg's injury.

"A reasonable possibility [is that it was caused by] an assault by an unknown person," she said.

"There are no suspects or charges likely."