HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Killed By 'Dr Death' Drug
Pubdate: Mon, 01 Jul 2013
Source: Belfast Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2013 Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd.
Authors: John McGurk and Sara Girvin


A sense of panic and fear has gripped loyalist areas after official 
warnings of a possible link between the "sudden and unexplained" 
deaths of eight young people and dangerous designer drug PMA.

Families and friends of Belfast men Gareth 'Big Henry' Morrison, Andy 
McCann and Alan 'Alio' McKenzie are mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Sunday Life was told yesterday that the family of 26-year-old Sandy 
Row man Gareth Morrison, who died last Sunday, were still too upset 
to talk about their loss.

Meanwhile, part of the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast came to a 
standstill as hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Alan 
'Alio' McKenzie yesterday morning.

Among the mourners is believed to have been the young Castlemore 
Avenue man's father, well-known loyalist Alan McKenzie.

East Belfast bodybuilder Andy McCann is thought to have been a victim 
too. Sources said the father-of-three, who was engaged to his 
long-term sweetheart Ashleigh, died in his sleep last week after 
taking one of the tablets.

Both the PSNI and Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer stressed 
that no direct connection has yet been established between any of the 
eight recent fatalities - seven in Belfast and one in the north-west 
- - and the ecstasy-type drug.

But cops and Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride issued public 
alerts about specific illegal drugs including distinctively-stamped 
green and white tablets, which can cost as little as UKP3.

One PMA drug under particular suspicion is nicknamed 'green Rolex' 
due to its distinctive crown or castle tablet stamp.

Leading substance misuse community advice and help organisation FASA 
held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the deaths and 
revealed that it had offered support and advice to a number of of the 
bereaved families.

However, as police await the results of its forensic tests, some 
people in loyalist areas of Belfast have expressed real fears that 
PMA may be responsible for the recent wave of tragic and untimely deaths.

Sandy Row Ulster First Flute Band man Gareth 'Big Henry' Morrison is 
believed to have complained of feeling unwell at a house party in the 
early hours of last Sunday morning.

The Sandy Row area's Facebook page is currently using a photo of him 
on its profile page as a tribute to the popular young man.

Hundreds lined the route or joined the cortege from his home to the 
Apostolic Church in Great Victoria Street for his funeral service 
last Thursday.

One local woman told Sunday Life that people in the area feared that 
the PMA killer drug had been responsible for the well-liked young 
man's untimely death.

"He was a lovely big fella and loved where he came from," she said.

"He was at a house party and was just having fun.

"People around here think that that terrible stuff may have killed him."

PMA tablets can be even more dangerous than ecstasy, as users may 
mistakenly believe that they have taken weak ecstasy. But the 
slower-working PMA ultimately has an effect up to five times stronger 
than MDMA and can have fatal consequences.

East Belfast MLA Michael Copeland told Sunday Life yesterday that 
many people in his area feared that young people like Alan 'Alio' 
McKenzie may have been victims of the PMA drug.

He said: "There is a feeling on the streets, which is reinforced by 
the comments of the Chief Medical Officer, that there are very 
dangerous drugs in circulation. The conclusion that these drugs have 
played a role in the deaths of some or all of these young people - 
and by inference the young man in my area - is almost inescapable."

PUP councillor John Kyle said east Belfast had been particularly 
affected by the suspected PMA-related deaths.

"I have been told that there have been five deaths in east Belfast 
within the last week or so," he said.

"This really underlines the fact that as a community we have to make 
it clear to drug dealers that we are not going to put up with this any longer."

FASA's James Scott confirmed that the group had discussed the sudden 
deaths of young people across the city at an emergency meeting two days ago.

"I called a meeting together of local community workers because there 
was a concern and a lot of rumours running around about a number of 
suspicious deaths across Belfast," he said. "There is a suspected 
link to PMA, which is a Class A substance, and there are other 
suspected links to other types of substances - the likes of legal highs."

In his letter to hospital bosses and doctors on Friday, Chief Medical 
Officer Michael McBride warned that "a number of unmarked white 
tablets" as yet untested may be connected to the "sudden deaths" in Belfast.

There have also been rumours linking the sudden death of a pretty 
mum-of-two to the spate of tragedies, but her family have denied any 
drugs link. She fell ill after partying at a club in the North West 
last weekend. Friends have posted messages of grief since a photo of 
her taken just hours before she died was posted.

The PSNI said that it is still investigating "eight sudden deaths" - 
seven in Belfast and one in the north-west.

"It should be noted that we cannotconfirm at this stage that all are 
drugs related," said a spokesperson.

Pills linked to string of tragedies

By John McGurk

The super-strength 'Dr Death' drug has also been linked to 10 fatal 
suspected PMA cases in the north of England this year.

PMA - a much more powerful amphetamine-type drug than ecstasy - is 
believed to have taken the life of pretty Lancashire schoolgirl Ellie 
Jones last May.

The 16-year-old from Warrington is thought to have taken PMA at a 
friend's house.

She collapsed and died 90 minutes later in hospital. PMA was found in 
her system.

Other English victims of PMA include lesbian couple Rachel Clayton 
and her partner Emma Speed, who were found dead at their Macclesfield 
home last April.

It is also believed that PMA played a key role in the sudden deaths 
of seven other young people in the Derbyshire-Lancashire area since 
Christmas 2012.

The hallucinogenic stimulant, which first came into circulation in 
the 1970s, has also been linked to the deaths of young people in the 
Irish Republic, Canada, Norway and Denmark.

PMA is regarded as being a much more dangerous drug than MDMA (better 
known as ecstasy) as it can be five times stronger than ecstasy.

Convulsions, coma and a complete shutdown of the body organs as a 
result of taking PMA occurs with fatal results - hence the drug's 
gruesome nickname, Dr Death.

Unsuspecting revellers are often led to believe that they are taking 
ecstasy because PMA is often passed off as the euphoria-inducing drug.

The highly-toxic PMA is also similar in appearance and cost to ecstasy.

But one of the main differences is that PMA takes much longer to take 
effect - sometimes leading the user to take more tablets in the 
belief that they have weak ecstasy.

The extra dosage, combined with other drugs, alcohol or even just 
caffeine, can have a deadly effect.

Significant increases in body temperature, severe dehydration and 
liver damage are all common contributory factors to PMA overdose or death.
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