Belfast Telegraph

Man who gave friend Stephen Millington lethal heroin injection jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 33-year old man who gave his friend a lethal injection of heroin was handed a four-year sentence after appearing in court on Monday.

Newry man Stephen Millington died in his Dublin Road flat in the early hours of January 17 after he was injected with around £4's worth of the Class A drug. A known alcohol and drug user, the 50-year old died after the drug was injected into his arm for the first time.

Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard Mr Millington gave his friend Mantas Cepas £40 to buy the drug, and that prior to this he had only smoked and never injected it.

Cepas - a Lithuanian national who at the time of his friend's death was living at Cowan Street in Newry - admitted both supplying the Class A Drug, and the manslaughter of his friend. He was informed by Judge Melody McReynolds that he will spend two years of his four-year sentence in prison, following by two years on licence when he is released.

Passing sentence, Judge McReyolds spoke of the unpredictability of heroin, telling the court "this is a very dangerous drug".

The court also heard that Mr Millington's death was a result of the intoxicating effects of alcohol, heroin and a benzodiazepine - all of which were found in his system.

Prosecuting barrister Geraldine McCullough said Mr Millington and Cepas had been drinking with their girlfriends at the deceased's flat over a period from January 16 to 17 this year, and that in that time the two couples drank "two to three litre bottles of vodka".

At one point, Mr Millington left the flat to get more drink, and after coming to the attention of police as he was wearing flip-flops in January, he was brought home by officers.

Following a conversation about drugs, Mr Millington gave Cepas £40 for a bag of heroin. Cepas left and returned a short time later "visibly affected by drugs ... with his eyes rolling in his head".

Cepas went to the bathroom where he prepared the drug. Mr Millington then tapped his own arm looking for a vein before asking Cepas to inject the heroin into his arm.

Pointing out that prior to this Mr Millington had only ever smoked heroin, Mrs McCullough said the deceased's girlfriend - a heroin user who was also present in the bathroom - saw the amount in the syringe and told Cepas "that's too much".

A few seconds after the drug was administered, Mr Millington's eyes rolled back and he slumped over. Both Mr Millington's girlfriend and Cepas tried to rouse him, but when this was unsuccessful, an ambulance was called.

Further attempts were made to resuscitate Mr Millington, who was pronounced dead at 3.20am.

Ms McCullough said that when a post-mortem was carried out, the level of alcohol in Mr Millington's system would have produced "extreme drunkeness". The toxicology reports also indicated heroin use prior to death.

Cepas was arrested at the scene and taken to Banbridge police station, where he co-operated with officers. He admitted buying the heroin for Mr Millington and told police his friend asked him to administer it as he had only ever smoked it.

In addition, Cepas told police he tried to help Mr Millington after he collapsed, that he didn't think the amount of heroin - between three to five millilitres -was too much, and that his friend's death had left him "in shock" and he was sorry.

Defence barrister Greg Berry QC passed on his condolences and sympathy to Mr Millington's loved ones on behalf of his client, adding the remorse expressed was genuine.

Telling the court Mr Millington's death was "something that he deeply regrets and is sorry for", Mr Berry said on that fateful evening the decision to buy drugs was "a spur of the moment matter".

Pointing out that had Mr Millington injected himself Cepas would not be facing a manslaughter charge, Mr Berry said the deceased's death was caused by a combination of drink and drugs. Mr Berry also spoke of Cepas's actions in the immediate aftermath of the fatal incident, saying that instead of fleeing, Cepas tried to revive his friend "but unfortunately it was too late".

As she passed sentence, Judge McReynolds spoke of the small amount of heroin that was injected - around £4's worth - which she said was "not inconsistent" with the toxicology report.

Noting Cepas had a minor criminal record with offences both here and in Holland, the Judge welcomed the fact he has passed two recent drugs tests whilst on remand.

Citing the manslaughter as "not a death resulting from direct violence in the classic sense", Judge McReynolds spoke of the unpredictable nature of heroin.

She also recommended that as part of his period on licence, Cepas should engage with programmes designed to tackle drug addiction.

The PSNI welcomed the sentencing.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Rachel Shields said: “We are pleased to have been able to make Mantas Cepas amenable for his part in the tragic death of Stephen Millington and to place him before the courts to answer for his crime.

"I hope the sentence handed down by Her Honour Judge McReynolds will bring some small measure of comfort to the Millington family.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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