'Speckled Cherry' death inquest held

Published Tuesday, 22 July 2014
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Northern Ireland's Senior Coroner is urging prosecutors to consider bringing forward manslaughter charges in drug death cases.

An inquest heard on Tuesday that a young Dungannon woman was killed by a drug that may also have claimed the lives of 19 others across the region.

Alice Devlin, 18, was found unresponsive by paramedics who were called to her home in the town early on Saturday 10 August last year.

Giving evidence at the inquest on Tuesday , state pathologist Alastair Bentley and senior scientific officer at Forensic Science NI, Siobhan Kirk, both agreed that Alice had died as a result of taking "4,4-Dimethylaminorex with mixed cathinone toxicity" - often found in pill-form with the street name Speckled Cherry.

"Until recently this drug has rarely been encountered as a drug of abuse, therefore there is little information available about its toxic effects", Ms Kirk explained.

A small amount of cannabis and alcohol were also found in her blood.

The testimony of the young woman's father, Padraig Devlin, was read out in court.

In it, he painted a picture of his daughter as a healthy young woman whose moods were low after she suffered a miscarriage in April 2013.

"We suspected she had been taking drugs", he explained, but added that when he approached Alice she "admitted that she had been taking Meth for a few months" and they sought help.

On the night Alice took the drug that claimed her life, Mr Devlin said he and his wife had gone to their caravan in Newcastle, while Alice stayed at home with "her friend Chelsea".

Giving evidence in court, Chelsea Kelly said she was with Alice from around 4.30pm on Friday 9 August, and that the "plan for the evening was to have a few friends round for drinks".

In her statement she admitted seeing "four tablets on the sofa" at Alice's that afternoon, and that she called 999 after seeing Alice "squirming around the bed... wretching and saying random words" in the early hours of the following morning.

A detective constable called into question Miss Kelly's statement, telling the court that information had been withheld from police and that "a lot of lies were told to us".

"We had to seize Chelsea's phone, but she still wasn't forthcoming on who provided them [the drugs].

"I believe that Chelsea knows exactly where the drugs came from," she added.

Dean Gallagher gave evidence that he and Miss Kelly had provided the £50 to buy "10 pills and two grams of meth" that night, but said Alice had organised the transaction, while Dean Montgomery, flanked by two prison guards, said both girls "looked like they had taken some sort of drug" when he arrived at the house around 12.30am, and that he later took two of the pills which he described as "white in colour with a cherry symbol".

A further witness, Niamh Agnew, who said she arrived at Alice's around 4.15am, described how she and Chelsea had attended Alice as she was "lying in her vest and pants" in a back bedroom.

Describing Alice's last moments, she said: "I noticed a change in Alice's breathing, it became short, she then turned grey and seemed to take, what I would describe as her last breath. [Then] the paramedics arrived and began working on her."

On hearing all the evidence, Senior Coroner John Leckey called on those present that night to tell police who sold the drugs that killed Alice, and urged the Public Prosecution Service to consider charges of manslaughter.

"To say that I am not impressed is an understatement," he said.

"If anyone has information that could lead to a prosecution they are duty bound to tell police."

Mr Leckey continued: "I think clearly from the evidence, Alice had her problems [but]... efforts had been made to try and persuade Alice to turn her back on drugs".

Highlighting the effect that these drugs have had on 20 young lives throughout Northern Ireland, he extended his sympathy to the Devlin family.

He added: "Anyone who takes these pills is playing Russian roulette with their life."

A statement from the PPS said: "The Public Prosecution Service considers each case on its individual merits and will instigate proceedings if the test for prosecution is met".

© UTV News
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7 Comments
Bill in Antrim wrote (88 days ago):
I have lived with a drug dealer directly across the street from me for seven years now every body knows what they are the police have raided there house on several occasions me and my wife have been subjected to being assaulted in our own front garden and we have been threatened the land lord knows what goes on but simply laughs and says as long as he gets his money he does not care. We have had to listen to there dog barking night and day I have spoken to the council who do nothing I have spoken to my MP who pays me lip service. We are at our wits end but no know one gives a hoot.
Jo R in Belfast wrote (90 days ago):
This is a sad waste of a young life. With these drugs life seem so cheap. I urge young people in Northern Ireland to open your eyes and see that drugs are killing the best of us. Only people who are gaining are the dealers. Dont become a slave to drugs.
Jo R in Belfast wrote (90 days ago):
Drugs kills and young people know this but are still taking them. Lets face it many young people gets a buzz on living this dangerous life style. Many parents hearts are broken trying to help but with no result. I am surprise we have this few deaths as a large majority of this generation are on one drug or the other. Drug dealers are cashing on it and must be stopped and brought to justice for dealing. But everyone is responsible for their own lives.
Anti drugs in Belfast wrote (91 days ago):
@norman.d What is sad is that the establishment lied about the dangers of drugs for years. They propagated their lies in schools trying to convince youngsters that all drugs were the same and all were deadly. The problem was that young people know other people who were taking drugs and therefore knew that cannabis couldn't kill or ecstasy was not addictive so when the same people tried to warn of the very real dangers of these drugs people didn't believe them. The resources used to demonise cannabis should be used to tackle real drugs. The education system and police should tell the truth instead of supporting government propaganda. The government should listen to the experts and the scientific community. The politicians at all levels should do a bit of research. Youn are right stiffer jail sentences for real drug pushers might help a bit
west in belfast wrote (91 days ago):
drugs are not forced down peoples throats they go to the dealer the dealer does not go to them. people should also remember that. drug dealing is wrong but they do not go getting people hooked or watever the people do that all on their own. god bless her soul and may she rest in peace thoughts and prayers with all left behind x
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