POTENTIALLY fatal drugs are being bought and sold for as little as £2.50, a police and crime commissioner yesterday told a summit called following the death of a teenage girl in a North Yorkshire market town.

The death of 15-year-old Leah Hayes following an adverse reaction to ecstasy shocked communities across the country, and led to Julia Mulligan calling for a plan of action to combat the spiralling misuse of drugs.

Leah was found collapsed in Northallerton’s Applegarth Park on the evening of May 11, and died a short time later. Investigations into her death are still underway following the arrest of a 17-year-old youth and an 18-year-old man.

North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan yesterday told the conference at the force's HQ in Northallerton: “Leah’s death shocked me, shocked our community, and of course those who responded to the situation that night and continue to be involved with investigating her death. Most of all, as a mum of two teenage girls, I can’t imagine how unspeakably awful this has been and must continue to be for her mum, Kerry.

“Leah died from an adverse reaction to a minuscule amount of MDNA, ecstasy, which I’ve subsequently found out typically costs just £2.50. Two pounds fifty for a beautiful young girl’s life.”

The summit brought together community leaders and emergency workers to try and come up with new ways of tackling the problem and challenging existing approaches. Mrs Mulligan said: “I wanted us to meet, against this backdrop, to reflect and discuss whether or not we are really doing everything we can.”

In the past seven years drug problems have grown from occasional complaints to the number one issue people want to talk about, said Mrs Mulligan.

She added: “I have visited schools, where teachers have followed me into the ladies to tell me about what’s going on in their schools and how concerned they are. I have met leaders of community groups who are patrolling car parks, taking photographs and noting number plates, to gather evidence and intelligence for the local police.

“A friend told me about his visit to National Park toilets in Grassington where three young men talking in an Eastern European language go into the loos and in the cubicle next to him he hears them divide up a large bag of white powder into tiny bags.

“In Harrogate, I attended a meeting of over 200 people called by a community leader. The queue went out of the door, past the fish and chip shop. Their number one concern was anti-social behaviour and drugs.”

One 16 year old told the Commissioner:

  • It’s at every single party.
  • The drugs of choice are Calvin Klein, a mix of coke and ket; Diz, spelt with one z, which is MDNA; Blue Punisher, a mix of MDNA and ket; Nos, or laughing gas, straight from the canister, which may not be illegal but can cause real harm.
  • "They take it because they are stressed, experimenting and out for a good time. They don’t think anything will happen to them and there are no consequences. It’s mostly the boys who deal, from ‘nice families, quite rich actually’. They use their snap accounts, selling Blue Punisher. And it’s cheaper and easier to get hold of than alcohol.

“So what would help them stop? Certainly not an ‘old policeman’ telling them what to do. What they need is something graphic and hard hitting. Something to make you cry.”

A straw poll carried out online brought more than 2,000 responses in 72 hours, 88 per cent were more worried about drugs than a year ago and 75 per cent were aware of people dealing in urban areas; in rural areas it was 81 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.

Mrs Mulligan said parents are particularly concerned, especially for boys who they worry may be involved in dealing, and hospital admissions for drug poisoning are increasing.

The Commissioner told the summit a lot was being done but more is needed. She added: “Has our focus on county lines taken our eye off the wider problem? Are we having an impact on young people in particular and what are we doing to explain to the public that their ‘harmless drug taking’ in pursuit of a fleeting high fuels an industry characterised by human misery and exploitation.”