Belfast Telegraph

One month on, we still don't know if rogue pills were behind 8 deaths

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

The families of eight young people who died suddenly in unexplained circumstances are yet to learn what killed their loved ones more than a month on.

Police are investigating if there is a drugs link to the deaths of the victims, aged in their 20s and 30s.

Seven came from the Belfast area with one from Coleraine.

Some victims' families have denied the deaths of their loved ones resulted from drugs misuse.

Police are still awaiting the results of forensic tests.

A Belfast High Court judge recently criticised delays over forensic testing and asked why politicians had not intervened.

Mr Justice Weir said a backlog at Forensic Science NI's laboratory was causing "enormous delays" in courts.

Fears have been expressed that a deadly batch of an ecstasy-type drug may have played a part in some of the recent deaths. The pills, known as green Rolexes, are circulating in Northern Ireland.

Available to buy for as little as £2.50, the drugs can be five times more powerful than ecstasy.

Police yesterday announced they had seized batches of the deadly drug following searches in Co Antrim in recent days. Forensic analysis has revealed that other recently seized pills were found to contain the highly toxic chemicals PMA and PMMA as well as ecstasy.

A senior police officer said the finds showed people were continuing to defy warnings about the risks posed by the drugs.

Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop (below) of the PSNI's Organised Crime Branch said: "Despite previous warnings by police and continued uncertainty surrounding the causes of a number of recent unexplained deaths, people are continuing to put their lives at risk," adding there was "no such thing as a safe drug or safe dose".

He added: "These chemicals have also been found in numerous other coloured pills bearing different logos throughout Great Britain, Europe and in Canada.

"They have been directly linked to death. Anyone found suffering ill-effects after having taken drugs should be treated as a medical emergency."

Drugs have killed almost 1,000 people in Northern Ireland over the past 10 years.

STORY SO FAR

Last month police revealed they were investigating the sudden and unexplained deaths of seven people from Belfast and one from Coleraine aged in their 20s and 30s. Police are investigating possible drugs links to the fatalities with three people arrested and questioned by police regarding the supply of illegal substances. All three have been released pending further inquiries.

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