Belfast dad speaks out after heroin deaths
The father of a young Belfast man who lost his son to drugs has spoken out after reports that seven people have died from heroin overdoses in recent days.
Aaron Connor (21) from Lenadoon in the west of the city was found unconscious in the toilets of a Belfast cafe on November 16.
He died in hospital despite efforts to save his life and his family believe he died of a heroin overdose.
Father to a seven-month-old baby girl, the young man had once been a talented cross-country runner and had held an apprenticeship as a bricklayer before drugs started to take control of his life.
He was one of five people to die within two days in the Greater Belfast area, with all suspected to have taken heroin or a cocktail of drugs in some cases.
It's reported that two more people have since died after taking heroin.
Mr Connor's father Christopher told the BBC he was now saying prayers for the other families facing the same devastation.
"I had to break the news to my wife, you know what I mean. And that was definitely the hardest thing I had to do," he said. "Telling my wife that our baby, our son is dead. I don't even still believe it. Drugs is going to ruin families, it's ruined our family, it's ripped our family apart. My wife is broken, she can't sleep, she's crying.
"I feel useless because I can't mend my wife. I'm letting her down at the minute and it's not fair."
He added: "As a family, this is tough and there's other families who are going through this exact same thing we're going through and my prayers are with them because this is so cruel - really, really cruel."
The Public Health Agency has issued a warning on the recent deaths, stating: "While it is not known at this stage what, if any substances, had been taken it is believed that the individuals may have taken heroin and, in some circumstances, poly drug use."
The latest figures available show that in 2017, 136 of the 16,036 registered deaths in Northern Ireland were drug-related, with most being men.
This represents a 60% increase in a decade with people in deprived areas being four times more likely to die from a drug-related death than those living in the least deprived areas.