Drugs death sparks hunt for suspect ecstasy
By thisislondon – 09 March 1998
Police have launched a massive hunt for a batch of contaminated ecstasy pills after a teenager from south London died.
They are trying to trace around 15 white pills bearing the letter M, which they believe may have claimed the life of a 19-year-old man from Welling, who died at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton yesterday morning.
Friends told police he was carrying the suspect pills while he was out with them on Saturday night in Bexleyheath, Welling and Greenwich. By the time he was admitted to hospital they were missing, sparking fears they had already been sold on or are still in the hands of an unsuspecting dealer.
The results of a post-mortem due today will show whether the man, who will be named once all relatives have been informed, was killed by an overdose or by swallowing a contaminated pill. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We are anxious to trace anyone who is offered what is believed to be white ecstasy tablets with the letter M on them. It is not known if these tablets had any part in the victim’s death and inquiries are still continuing into the circumstances of this death.
“However, police are concerned to find the whereabouts of 10-15 tablets known to have been in the victim’s possession. We are appealing to anyone who was offered the drugs on Saturday night.
“Anyone in the Bexleyheath, Greenwich or Welling areas who may have been offered tablets fitting this description or anyone who has information should contact police as soon as possible.”
The suspected drugs death follows a spate of ecstasy-related deaths at the beginning of the year when the drug claimed the lives of three teenagers in separate incidents at New Year’s parties. The number of deaths blamed on the drug in Britain is about 70.
Public concern about the potentially fatal effects of the rave drug was triggered by the death in 1995 of Leah Betts, from Basildon, Essex, and the subsequent campaign against the drug launched by her parents, Paul and Janet.
Today Paul Betts, father of Leah, said: “My heart goes out to his parents. If we could be any comfort to them at all, we would be only too happy to help.”
Mr Betts, 51, of Maldon, Essex, now runs a drugs awareness helpline with wife Janet, 51. He said it was a myth that it was just bad pills that killed, and insisted it was the ecstasy itself that was potentially lethal.
Mr Betts said: “We have got to make people realise is it is the pure drug that can kill. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a contaminated pill.
“There is this notion that if people die there is something wrong with the pill. But very often it is the MDMA, the ecstasy, that kills.”