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My girl's death still haunts me, says mum of care home teen Louise Gibson who overdosed on ‘party’ drug

By Cate McCurry

Published 03/12/2015

Heather Gibson outside Omagh courthouse
Heather Gibson outside Omagh courthouse
Louise Gibson

The heartbroken mother of a teenage girl has described the moment she found her dead after accidentally overdosing on an illegal party drug.

Louise Gibson was 16 when her mum discovered her on a chair in her partner's home in Co Tyrone just a few hours after she had kissed her goodnight.

The teenager had gone missing from Woodlands Children's Care Home in Omagh, where she was a resident, when she made an unapproved visit to her mother, Heather Gibson.

She was estranged from Ms Gibson, but the pair had been making efforts to repair their strained relationship.

For the last four years of Louise's life she was subject of a care order and had been a living at the home.

in May 2013 she contacted her mother to try and make amends following a fall-out some months beforehand.

The inquest was told Louise rang her mother several times, and that during one phone call she told her she was sorry and asked if she could visit her.

Ms Gibson told the court that she was at her partner Owen Duffy's house in Strule Park in the town when her daughter called over.

She described Louise as bubbly, but also as more "hyper" than her usual self.

"She said that she wanted to sort things out between us after we fell out," Ms Gibson told the inquest.

"After that we were joking about and having a laugh. But during that evening I fell asleep and she left the house for a couple of hours.

"When she came back, her leggings were ripped and she had lost her phone. At this point she was very hyper, and I told her that I didn't want any more carry on.

"She said sorry and spent the night kissing my head. We chatted in the living room and I went to bed. I told Owen to look after her and told Louise to come up to bed in a while."

But the next morning Ms Gibson went downstairs and found her daughter still lying in the same chair. She soon realised that something was wrong, and when she touched her daughter's leg it was "stone cold".

"I was hysterical and said 'she's dead', and told Owen to ring for an ambulance," Ms Gibson said.

The bereaved mother, who is an alcoholic, added she and her daughter had been trying to repair their relationship so she could come home for good.

She told her barrister Blaine Nugent that Louise would smoke and occasionally drink, but would not take drugs.

"I don't know where she went or where she got the drugs," Ms Gibson told the inquest. "Social services are to blame, not me."

Aidan Corrigan, a barrister for the Western Trust, told the court that social workers at Woodlands contacted police when they discovered Louise was missing. A search was launched but they were unable to trace her.

Staff spoke to Louise on the phone to persuade her to return to the home, but she would not tell them where she was.

Deputy State Pathologist Alastair Bentley carried out a post-mortem the following day and discovered the teenager had taken the illegal party drug PMA, (para-methoxyamphetamine).

Dr Bentley told the court that PMA was similar to ecstasy and that the concentration in Louise's blood had fatal consequences. He also explained that users of PMA would often experience a delay in the side-effects compared to ecstasy, which may encourage people to take more, increasing the likeliness of an overdose.

The drug can cause problems with blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm and body temperature, the pathologist said, adding that ecstasy can cause potentially fatal seizures, with PMA having a similar effect.

A neighbour of Mr Duffy's, John Kearney, arrived at the home hours before Louise's death asking for alcohol because he was on a "binge". He claimed to have seen her lying curled up on the floor and moving from side to side.

He told the inquest that she was also panting and wiping sweat from her forehead.

"She appeared in difficulty and in distress, and I said she needed an ambulance," he added. "But Owen said: 'Don't worry, she does this all the time. She's faking it'."

However, both Ms Gibson and Mr Duffy have denied this allegation.

Chief Inspector Brian Swan explained to the court that officers had been assigned to look for Louise and that all known addresses were checked. However, Mr Duffy's home was not known to them.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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