Belfast Telegraph

Heroin den operating yards from top Belfast schools

 

By Chris Woodhouse

This is the hidden heroin den operating just yards from one of Northern Ireland's most prestigious schools.

The drug camp lies less than a minute's walk from the gates of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Inst) in Belfast city centre.

Behind a fence and shaded by trees, it's also immediately next door to hundreds of student rooms in John Bell House, formerly the Belfast Metropolitan College.

It's passed by tens of thousands of unsuspecting motorists every day heading to and from the city centre along Great Victoria Street.

One resident who lives nearby told Sunday Life the heroin epidemic had turned the area into a "warzone", with two muggings in the last week.

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Heroin den, Belfast. Credit: Chris Woodhouse

When Sunday Life visited the site on Thursday, the cramped shooting-up spot was littered with scores of used needles, foils, needle boxes and spoons for melting down the heroin for injection.

Sleeping bags hung from trees above the rain-sodden, muddy ground, along with clothes, sanitary products, food wrappers and other assorted rubbish.

Needle boxes are given to addicts by drugs charities to allow them store used needles safely and drop them off in exchange for clean ones at the two centres in the city.

But dozens of these boxes were strewn all over the ground, with one bearing the slogan, "It all adds up".

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Heroin den, Belfast. Credit: Chris Woodhouse

Another was emblazoned with information about Naloxone, the heroin anti-overdose drug, while others advised users to call 999 in the event of an overdose.

Naloxone is supplied in a glass vial with a small syringe in a yellow box and several could been scattered about, suggesting addicts had recently overdosed while staying at the site.

The area on the corner of College Square North has clearly been in use for some time.

The evidence also suggests addicts are sleeping there overnight, but when our reporter searched the area, nobody was around.

Used needles could also be seen lying on the pavement on nearby King Street Mews behind Neill's flour mill.

The area has long been popular with drinkers from the Morning Star hostel further along the road .

When our reporter spoke to one, he said he had seen two addicts in the area earlier that morning.

Later that day, five addicts were seen using the camp to shoot up before an argument broke out among them.

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Heroin den, Belfast. Credit: Chris Woodhouse

Lorraine Sullivan, a long-time resident of the area, told Sunday Life the heroin problem in the area was so bad she is afraid to leave her apartment.

"It's nuts, it's absolutely nuts. There was a mugging yesterday (Wednesday) and an elderly man was done on Sunday," she said.

"I will not go out after 6pm. These are beautiful apartments, but I can't take anymore."

Lorraine has lived in the area for 14 years. The growing drug problem started around six years ago, but has now reached unprecedented levels.

She added that there had been two deaths as a result of suspected overdoses in the area in recent weeks.

"If it was going on before then I never saw it, but now they're just off their heads," she said.

"I saw two addicts injecting themselves on a Friday evening at about 6pm and there were kids still playing in the street.

"They used to inhale it from plastic bottles, but now it's needles, it's heroin.

"They congregate here in the evenings and they used to have tents up.

"Weeks ago an ambulance raced up Hamill Street and my friend went round and a policeman was giving mouth-to-mouth to a man. It was a heroin overdose on a Sunday afternoon.

"What am I living in the middle of? It's like a warzone."

The problem has become so bad, Lorraine has asked her housing provider to find her a new home but is still waiting for an answer.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson told Sunday Life: "Our community safety team have been working with the PSNI and other agencies to carry out a clean-up of this and the nearby Durham Street area after concerns raised by the local community about continuing drug use. We are working with the relevant authorities to try and address the issue.

"While Belfast City Council does not own and is not responsible for this the area of green at College Sq North/College Street, we are happy to include it as part of the clean-up recouping the cost from the landowners."

The site is testament to the growing scourge of heroin in Belfast, which is at its worst level since the drug first arrived in the city.

Eastern European crime gangs working with paramilitaries have flooded the city with the drug, which is cheaper now than it has ever been.

One heroin user told the BBC earlier this month that getting heroin was as "easy as getting a packet of cigarettes".

Addiction services have been swamped, with waiting lists for treatment programmes currently standing between 29 and 38 weeks.

Belfast Telegraph

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