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Mum's heartfelt plea to families

PUBLISHED: 15:57 29 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:28 03 March 2010

FOUR families are today still coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones who have died after consuming deadly cocktails of drugs and alcohol.

Inquests into the deaths of the four people from Ipswich were held in the town yesterday.

FOUR families are today still coming to terms with the loss of their loved ones who have died after consuming deadly cocktails of drugs and alcohol.

Inquests into the deaths of the four people from Ipswich were held in the town yesterday.

Community editor AMANDA CRESSWELL spoke to one mother who knows of the trauma and grief relatives are facing after losing her daughter in similar circumstances.

IPSWICH mum Carole Purnell glances at the photograph of her beloved teenage daughter Andrea and can only reflect on the tragic waste of a young life.

The closest she can get to her daughter now is when she lays flowers at her grave.

Andrea had her whole life ahead of her, but just a week after her 19th birthday she was found dead in a dingy bed-sit in Piper's Court, Ipswich, a life lost to heroin.

Although Andrea died nine years ago, it seems like only yesterday to her relatives who were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Carole's message to youngsters is very clear and very real – drugs kill. And if she can turn just one young person away from substance misuse, Andrea's death wasn't in vain.

"Young people who die from ecstasy or taking heroin is in the papers and on TV all the time.

"You see their gravestones up at the cemetery. There are lots of people up there along with Andrea.

"It was not as if it was an accidental death, that would have been bad enough. It was the fact of how she died.

"As far as I am concerned the person who gave Andrea the drugs was the person that killed her."

The 51-year-old grandmother spoke out to warn others following the deaths of Sally Ann Suttle, 24, Edmund Guyver, 37, and Joseph Connelly, 26, whose lives were cut tragically short after they were all found to have died from a cocktail of drink and/or drugs.

Their inquests were held yesterday along with 39-year-old Mark Huxtable, of Cauldwell Hall Road.

Although no definite cause could be found for Mr Huxtable's death, he had been drinking vodka and Red Bull and a post mortem showed traces of various drugs in his system.

Sally Ann was found dead at her Norwich Court home by her mother Maria on July 6. She had died of an accidental overdose.

The same verdict was recorded into the death of Edmund Guyver, of Downside Close, on March 22. Police found him slumped in an armchair with a syringe still in his hand.

Joseph Connelly, of Orwell Gardens, had a history of drug and alcohol dependency dating back to 1993.

These people each have loved ones left to come to terms with these needless deaths.

Mum-of-ten Carole, of Byron Road, was so grief-stricken it took about a year after Andrea's death to even bring herself to go out of the house.

But she acted positively to prevent more wasted lives speaking of the dangers of drugs at a school at Haverhill – where she lived for a year after Andrea's died.

Her daughter got into drugs after she left home and fell in with the wrong crowd.

She started using cannabis before turning to the hard drug.

Andrea soon turned to crime to feed her habit and like so many addicts her life rapidly went downhill.

But ironically her future looked brighter when she came off heroin while spending three months in prison and promised she would never touch the drug again.

But the day of her release she was back taking heroin again and a week later she was found dead in the bedsit.

Carole feels strongly that soft drugs lead to hard drugs.

Andrea started with cannabis and through the people she associated with she got into harder drugs.

"If you get something in a teenager's hands and they are offered something else, they are going to try it," she said.

"It's like drink, one can lead to another, you get in a vicious circle. Peer pressure is a very strong thing."

She recounts seeing her daughter during the period of heroin misuse.

"I didn't see her for weeks and then she was up in court and I went up there and she looked someone different.

"Her face was all drawn, she looked terrible. Just in a matter of weeks. She came to me some nights when she was on a downer. I could tell when she took it. Her eyes were all small and she looked distant.

"I said: `Why do you take it, you look like a zombie?' She said: `That's why I like it.' If you have one you have to go back for more. It was like it had a pull on her."

Carole has strong views on combating drug misuse – to go into schools and teach children of the dangers as early as possible, preferably in the last year of primary school.

"When I spoke to the secondary school children in Haverhill it became very real to them," said Carole.

"I was a parent of a daughter who had died. I showed them a picture of her a week before she died and a picture of her headstone.

"From the feedback I was told that day and the next day the conversation among the pupils was Andrea."

Andrea was short sighted so she couldn't inject the heroin herself and asked others to do it for her.

After her death she was moved from one flat to another because it was easier for them to move her than the drugs accessories in her room.

"These people are your friends as long as you are taking heroin and buying it: as long as you are handing over the money," said Carole, who feels courts should clamp down hard on dealers.

"When you lose someone like that it is just a tragic waste and it affects the whole family. I think the drug issue has just got out of control, especially in a small place like Ipswich."

Coroner Dr Peter Dean also had a strong anti-drugs message.

"Time and time again we see the problems and how easily people become addicted and how difficult it is to leave the habit once you are addicted.

"Once you are addicted and using drugs such as street heroin, you really are at the mercy of the people who deal in it. They have no idea what they are injecting or what they are smoking, what it is mixed with or how concentrated it is.

"It may be 10 or 15 per cent strength once it gets to the man on the street. You just don't know what it is mixed with. It could be powerful stuff it is mixed with.

"The other danger is that the addicts may be buying street drugs which hasn't been as adulterated as normal drugs and all of a sudden they go from injecting 10 to 15pc strength to 80 or 90pc and accidentally overdose. It is like playing Russian Roulette.

"People often underestimate how addictive these things are. The best thing is not to try these drugs.

"All I can do is emphasise the very, very real and very extreme hazard of drug misuse.

"From our point of view we see the tragedies that happen and see families that are destroyed by using drugs – it may be a daughter, sister, brother, cousin or anyone else.

"These are preventable tragedies. I want to press home the message don't even try it. Basically drugs kill, there are no two ways about it."

Helplines:

The Samaritans 0845 – 7909090.

The National Drugs Helpline – 0800 – 776600.

Weblinks:

Cascade: drugs information and advice service run by young people. Offers drugs dictionary and details of helplines in the UK: http://www.cascade.u-net.com/

UK National Drugs Helpline

www.urban75.com/Drugs/helpline.html

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