Teen girl among five sudden Belfast deaths in police drugs probe
A 16-year-old girl was among five possible drug-related deaths in Belfast, police have said.
Four men and the teenage girl died in separate incidents in Belfast since Friday. Four of them died on Monday, although police said they did not believe there is a link.
These include a 26-year-old man in the Riverdale Park North area, a 25-year-old man in the Hannahstown area, the 16-year-old girl in Great Victoria Street and a 28-year-old man in Utility Street. No details were given of the fifth man.
Post mortem examinations were due to take place on Tuesday to determine the cause of each death.
Police said they suspected a cocktail of drugs could potentially be responsible, rather than one specific type.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Mairs said: "Investigations are at an early stage but I would like to take the opportunity to reintroduce the dangers posed by taking any illegal drugs or any medication that is not prescribed for you.
"Drugs misuse can affect anyone and we recognise that many vulnerable people are being exploited for the financial gain of those higher up the supply chain."
He added: "We do not believe these deaths are linked and there is no emerging trend in terms of one specific drug. It appears to be a combination of different drugs being misused, that's from prescribed medication, illegal drugs and alcohol."
Officers said the number of deaths was "unusual" but reiterated that there was no link or connection between those who died.
"We have seen an increase in the number of deaths with more than one drug in the blood system. Overall the vast area of concern is the misuse of prescription medication," Mr Mairs said.
He added: "It is notable that they all occurred within the same day but we don't see any linkages but what they are indicative of is that from a police perspective we are seeing an increase in the number of drugs deaths across Northern Ireland.
"It's a snap shot of a number of drugs deaths in the last calender year."
From January to November last year there were 78 deaths in Northern Ireland which was a 28% increase on 2015.