Belfast Telegraph

Man latest victim of 'speckled cherry' drug

By Harriet Crawford

The new killer drug known as a "speckled cherry" has been blamed for yet another young man's death.

Two inquests in two days were told how the still legal drug caused the sudden deaths of otherwise healthy men.

The death of father-of-two David Jonathan Guiney is the latest in a host of overdoses connected to the stimulant.

Just yesterday the Belfast Telegraph reported Senior Coroner John Leckey's warning that Northern Ireland may not have seen the last of the fatalities caused by speckled cherries, which have claimed more than 20 lives in the province since 2013.

The 35-year-old from Belfast - known as Jonathan - was found dead in his bed by paramedics in February this year, the inquest heard. He and his partner had been taking drugs at his flat when he became unwell. He died before paramedics arrived.

A post-mortem examination confirmed that his death was due to an overdose of speckled cherries and other synthetic drugs, which would have increased the toxic effects.

Speckled cherry is a street name used for 4,4-Dimethylaminorex, also known as "speckled cross".

The drugs are taken for their euphoric and psychoactive effects and can cause impaired consciousness and multi-organ failure. They are not yet banned in the UK.

Mr Guiney's partner Catherine Graham told the inquest they had taken ecstasy and a white powder called "magic" together at his flat on the day he died.

She told paramedics at the scene that Jonathan had taken six ecstasy tablets and two lines of mephedrone.

"He was fine for a long time and then he started sweating profusely and having very jerky actions," she said.

"I got very concerned and wanted to ring an ambulance.

"But he said the effects would wear off."

She returned from the bathroom to find him lying flat on his back, unresponsive, and he soon stopped breathing.

Paramedics arrived seven minutes after her panicked call to find him "cold and dead", the inquest heard.

Kevin McCann, emergency medical technician, said Jonathan "had been dead for some time" by the time the ambulance arrived.

The PSNI launched an investigation into the sudden death.

Officers found two white plastic bags in the flat containing a white powder and a white-coloured residue, and a rolled-up £5 note.

Ms Graham said that, in the months before his death, Jonathan had not appeared for planned contact with their children and had admitted to taking drugs.

"I remember him saying that if he wasn't with me, he would be back taking drugs like he did when he was younger," she said.

Coroner Jim Kitson concluded: "This was quite simply over-consumption of very illegal substances."

His sister Lorraine Guiney told the inquest: "He was a lovely person."

She said her brother had a breakdown aged 19 and struggled to come to terms with his subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia.

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