Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jul 2002
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2002, Archant Regional


A heartbroken Norfolk man told yesterday how his bright daughter descended 
into a chaotic life of drug addiction and died a " the day before her first 
appointment for treatment.

Melody Stevens, 29, died of a heroin overdose at her boyfriend's Norwich 
flat on Boxing Day after spending a happy and quiet Christmas Day with her 
family and two young children.

Peter Parsons said he and his wife, Karen, had done everything they could 
to help their daughter overcome her drug addiction and finally got her a 
date at the Bure Centre in Norwich.

He said the Government should be giving drug treatment agencies more money 
to help drug users rather than introducing 'tolerance policing'.

Although he was unsure that experimenting with cannabis had led her to take 
Class A drugs, Mr Parsons expressed dismay at Home Secretary David 
Blunkett's announcement on Wednesday that the drug was to be downgraded 
from B to C.

Despite Mr Blunkett's assertion that it would free up resources to continue 
the fight against hard drugs a " including heroin a " he said he felt the 
Government had its priorities wrong.

He said: "I believe there are people who are looking for something extra in 
their lives and if you start one thing, it can lead to something else. It 
could be a can of beer behind the bike shed turning into two bottles of 
whisky, and I just sometimes wonder where Mr Blunkett gets his ideas.

"With the route this present Government is taking, we seem to be fighting 
fires rather than going to the root of the problem. So much time and effort 
has been expended in my daughter's case by social services and the police 
when they could have been doing better things.

"The agencies dealing with the drugs problem are under-funded and the 
police do not have enough people on the ground. They know who the drug 
dealers are and they can't do anything about it."

An inquest in Norwich on Wednesday a " ironically the day of Mr Blunkett's 
Commons statement a " heard that Ms Stevens was from a "good and caring 
home" but had taken cannabis at the age of 13 and "graduated to hard drugs 
a " heroin".

Already struggling against addiction, her estranged husband died from 
throat cancer last November and she began experiencing difficulties looking 
after her two young children.

She spent Christmas Day with her parents at home at Aylsham and at 4.30pm 
her father drove her to the home of Rupert Ryan, her boyfriend, in Thorpe 
Road, Norwich.

The inquest heard that she took methadone that afternoon and half an hour 
later wanted heroin and began shouting at him.

When he refused to help her, she injected herself. That evening she started 
choking and he put her in the recovery position on the sofa and kept an eye 
on her until 3am when he went to bed. By 9am she was dead.

Coroner William Armstrong concluded she died from an overdose or heroin and 
recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Mr Parsons said yesterday that his daughter had been bright and, though not 
particularly academic, finished school with some qualifications. While she 
was at Aylsham High School she was introduced to cannabis, a substance 
available to so many teenagers in the county, and by 17 she had moved to 

She drifted in and out of odd jobs but always had her own place, usually 
rented from the city council, and eventually she married.

When she was about 23 she had her first child, but when the marriage 
foundered so did any stability her parents might have hoped she would find.

"We think she had touched on heroin for two to three years. One of her 
previous boyfriends had been on heroin and hanged himself," said Mr Parsons.

"She took methadone. She was on what she called a home detox.

"She never had any money and we were giving her money for food.

"Then we stopped doing that and started buying her food instead. We also 
ended up paying all her bills, getting the electricity put back on after 
she had been cut off."

Although she did not live with her husband, the father of her eldest child, 
Ms Stevens had been helping to nurse him when he died.

By this time she had started to see Mr Ryan and was taking valium, 
methadone and heroin, while still looking after her children, now aged six 
and two.

"Everybody was trying to do something.

"The day after she died she had an appointment at the Bure Clinic and I had 
had to fight four or five months to get that appointment a " but it was too 
late," said Mr Parsons.

"My last words with her on Christmas Day were trying to talk her into 
picking her up on the 27th to take her to her appointment.

"You look back and everything is easy with a pocket full of hindsight."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth