Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Heroin packets in Hoffman's home

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead surrounded by packets of heroin
Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead surrounded by packets of heroin

Philip Seymour Hoffman had at least 46 packets of heroin in his apartment when he died, including deadly versions of the drug known as Ace of Spade or Ace of Hearts.

Medical examiners have not yet made an official determination of the cause of the 46-year-old actor's death, but police have been investigating it as a suspected overdose. Hoffman was found in a bathroom with a syringe in his arm, law enforcement officials have said.

Tests have confirmed there was heroin in at least some of the scores of plastic packets in the New York City apartment where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead, a law enforcement official said, and authorities are working to determine whether the drug was mixed or tainted with anything else.

A few details have begun to sketch a picture of his final day and the circumstances in which he was found in his apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village on Sunday. And questions have swirled about whether Hoffman's death could be linked to a potent blend of heroin and synthetic morphine that has been tied to deaths elsewhere, though as yet there are no official findings pointing to that scenario.

A friend had spoken to him by phone around 9pm on Saturday, in the last contact investigators are aware of anyone having with him, a law enforcement official said. The official said the actor's door was double-locked when his body was found around 11.30 am the next day by the same friend and Hoffman's assistant.

In the apartment were at least four dozen small packets variously stamped with the ace of hearts and others with the ace of spades, two law enforcement officials said. Tests of samples showed heroin in each type, one of the officials said.

The card symbols are often used to indicate heroin laced with fentanyl, an opiate given to cancer patients.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to talk about the evidence gathered.

Authorities also found unused syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a blood-pressure drug and a muscle relaxant, one of the officials said.

Stamps are common as a form of drug-world branding, and authorities make note of the ones they encounter, though they're hardly trademarks - different producers might use the same symbol. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ace of hearts and ace of spades stamps could lead investigators to any clues about the source of the items found in Hoffman's apartment.

"The direction of the investigation is going to depend, in large part, on the findings of the medical examiner and the findings of the lab tests," chief police spokesman Stephen Davis said.

An autopsy began on Monday, but results weren't expected until at least Tuesday, the city medical examiners' office said.

Concern has risen around the region in recent months about fentanyl, a synthetic morphine substitute roughly 100 times more powerful than morphine, being mixed with or substituted for heroin. In western Pennsylvania, 22 people died within a week last month from suspected overdoses of heroin and fentanyl, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said last week; at least a half-dozen suspected dealers have been charged there.

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