Man linked to Belfast KFC heroin death jailed
A Belfast man who played a part in the supply of heroin to a woman who later fatally overdosed in the toilets of a KFC restaurant has been jailed.
Highlighting the dangers presented by both the supply and use of drugs, Her Honour Judge McCaffrey handed Liam Dowds a sentence of two years and eight months for his involvement in the supply of heroin.
The 35-year-old, from River Terrace in south Belfast, was informed he would serve half his 32-month sentence in prison and half on supervised licence.
Dowds was arrested in connection with the death of a 25-year-old woman found in the toilets of the KFC on Belfast's Donegall Place last March.
The woman's family said that prior to the accidental overdose, she had been clean for months, was looking to the future and was excited about moving into a new house.
Text messages located on the young woman's phone linked her to Dowds, who put her in touch with a man who sold her a wrap of heroin for £50.
Just hours after buying the drug, the north Belfast woman was found dead in the upstairs area of the fast food outlet by a member of staff.
A post-mortem examination concluded she died from a heroin overdose.
Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said the woman had a "long history of addiction" to heroin and had been "struggling" with the Class A drug for seven years.
Dowds was arrested in January this year following a detailed examination of the woman's phone. During police interviews, he gave no-comment responses to questioning.
Mr Steer said Dowds later admitted a charge of being concerned in the supply of heroin. He also said the defendant was able to put a user with an associate for "indirect supply".
Passing sentence, Judge McCaffrey said the young woman's death should act as a reminder of the dangers of drugs.
The heartbroken mother of the woman who died hit out at the lack of facilities for people seeking help for addiction.
She handed over a poem her daughter had written at a creative writing class she had attended, in which the young woman compared heroin addiction to falling in love in a relationship that turned sour.
She is adamant that the drug overdose that killed her daughter was accidental.
"The reason why the heroin hit her that hard that Sunday is because she had been off it for so long... easily a number of months," she said. "I will always love her and be proud of her, and I have to admire her for the struggles she had against her, because she was an addict."
The woman's mum explained that prior to the overdose, her daughter had been working with the drugs outreach team based at Murray Street in Belfast, which she called "amazing". She said: "The problem here is that there is no facility for someone battling this kind of addiction and for those who want to stop.
"There's nothing in the way of support, no specialist facility, either for addicts or their families. We hope to lobby Stormont to provide a facility that is still sadly lacking. Drugs are in our communities and they are taking the lives of our children.
"My daughter was a funny, beautiful, smart and talented girl who unfortunately got involved in the wrong company at a time in her life when she was going through a vulnerable stage."
Poem about addiction written by victim
Falling like a fool
He met a girl called Poppy one cold autumn night
A Nepalese temptress, it was love at first sight.
She had a certain mystique and lovely brown skin
She always made him laugh, she always made him grin
They started going out; at first once a week
He’s got a real classy lady; she doesn’t come cheap
He loves his girl Poppy; he loves being loyal
His girl’s so sweet; she should be wrapped in foil
To win her hand in marriage he knew it would be a chase
He gave her his Nan’s ring; you should’ve seen her face
For her he gave up everything — his friends, his money, his clothes
She always treated him right; she never got up his nose
Until one day she told him he owed her some money
Now he’s cold and alone, nothing seems funny
Now in these days of autumn she gets under his skin
He was a fool in love with a girl called Heroin