Pubdate: Mon, 20 May 2002
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2002 BBC


The parents of heroin victim Rachel Whitear believe she would be alive 
today if Britain had adopted The Netherlands' more liberal approach to drug 

Following a trip to Amsterdam, Mick and Pauline Holcroft said they were 
impressed by that country's openness about drugs and called for a massive 
overhaul of Britain's laws.

The couple, who published shocking photos of 21-year-old Rachel's body 
after she overdosed, also supported cannabis cafes for breaking the link 
between drug users and street dealers.

Following their visit to The Netherlands for an ITV1 news programme the 
Holcrofts praised the availability of immediate help in that country for 
those with problems and said the same approach in Britain could save lives.


Mrs Holcroft, from Withington, Herefordshire, said Britain should have 
learned from the Dutch approach to drugs.

She said: "I have to think there's a far bigger chance that Rachel would 
still be with us.

"I'm obviously very saddened that if Rachel had had those opportunities, 
she may still be here."

Mr Holcroft said: "I do honestly feel after talking to some of the experts 
and talking to heroin users, that there is a system in Holland that can 
help the families as well, and you would not feel quite so helpless."

'Instantaneous Help'

The Holcrofts said heroin users at an Amsterdam drop-in centre they visited 
were appalled by the circumstances in which Rachel died.

The body of the former university student was discovered in a bedsit in 
Exmouth, Devon, three days after she overdosed in May 2000. She still had a 
syringe in her hand.

Mrs Holcroft said: "It was amazing meeting those people.

"When they needed help, it was more or less instantaneous. Certainly within 
two days, to be put on a programme to come off it.

"They can't believe the circumstances under which Rachel died and were 
shocked by the photographs"


Rachel's parents, who have previously backed a campaign encouraging heroin 
users not to inject, said drugs education is a much higher priority in 
Dutch schools.

They supported the idea of teaching children as young as nine about the 
dangers of drug use.

Job Arnold from the Drug User's Union in Amsterdam told them: "Recent 
history has shown Holland as a country that is open about drugs and drug 
users, and young people can see for themselves that really a lifestyle with 
heroin is not a very promising option."

Despite The Netherlands' more liberal approach to drugs fewer young people 
use them than in Britain.

'Loving Girl'

Rachel moved on to heroin after smoking cannabis and the Holcrofts believe 
she may never have made the jump if cannabis cafes existed in Britain.

Mrs Holcroft said: "I think the key issues are that cannabis is kept 
separately to other drugs.

"In Britain, you have dealers with cannabis in one pocket and heroin in the 

"When they run out of one, they give people the other. That's how they get 
hooked on heroin."

Remembering her daughter as a "very outgoing, loving girl" and added: "We 
couldn't help remembering Rachel on our trip, and knowing that when she 
wanted help, it wasn't there."
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