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Father died after taking booze and synthetic cannabis

By Cate McCurry

Published 26/01/2016

Samuel Leathem had been drinking at his cousin's flat in south Belfast when he died from an overdose of drugs, including a legal high
Samuel Leathem had been drinking at his cousin's flat in south Belfast when he died from an overdose of drugs, including a legal high

A court has heard how a father-of-one found dead on a sofa after he took deadly synthetic cannabis had suffered from anxiety.

Samuel Leathem had been drinking at his cousin's flat in south Belfast when he died from an overdose of drugs, including a legal high.

The 24-year-old's body was found on the sofa by his cousin, Martin Nesbitt who is an Afghan war veteran, an inquest heard.

In June 2014 the pair had been drinking alcohol and taking the 'designer drug' AB-Chminaca which is a legal high widely available to buy online.

Mr Nesbitt admitted to purchasing the legal high but told police he understood it to be a different drug.

Coroner James Henry Rodgers stated that Mr Leathem's death was "untimely in the extreme and totally unnecessary".

He added: "It's all too clear that the drugs and alcohol combination proved fatal."

His cause of death was recorded as a combination of the legal high, diazepam and alcohol toxicity.

Samuel's GP told the inquest that he had taken Oxazepam, which is used to treat anxiety, for seven years. She also stated that he had broken up with his partner and had not been sleeping because of this in the months leading up to his death.

The Belfast man, who lived with his mother in Trillick Street in the east of the city, was a father to a two-year-old girl.

His mother Jean Leathem last saw him alive two days before his death when he left her home to go and watch a parade in the city centre.

By the following evening, Sammy, as he was known, had not returned home and Ms Leathem attempted to contact him but he failed to answer his mobile.

The next day, his sister received a phone call from a friend who said she heard Sammy had died.

Ms Leathem rushed to Mr Nesbitt's flat where her son's body was discovered.

During yesterday's inquest, she repeatedly told the court that her son did not take drugs but knew that her nephew Martin did.

A previous statement from Mr Nesbitt's neighbour, Alice Morrow, who did not attend the inquest, was read out in court.

She stated that at about 11am on June 23, she was in her home when Mr Nesbitt knocked on her door.

She said he looked terrible and was pale.

"He could not get any words out but said that his cousin was dead "in there" and pointed to his flat."

Ms Morrow discovered Samuel sitting upright on the sofa with his head tilted.

"He looked as if he was sleeping," she said. "I went over to touch him and he was cold and I couldn't find a pulse.

"I was in shock and Martin kept saying it was his fault. I tried to calm him down as he was upset and crying. I started to tidy up the room and could see traces of white powder on top of the table."

Constable Kevin Deehan told the court that Mr Nesbitt said they had taken speed some five hours before his cousin's death.

Constable Craig Tuner also told the court that he saw Mr Nesbitt attempt to dispose of the white powder in a drain outside the flats. However, he recovered the bag which was later examined.

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