A GRIEVING mother made an emotional appeal yesterday for young people who take drugs to get help fast.

Jacqueline Maltby wept as she made the plea after an inquest into the death of her 26-year-old son, Lee, a drug addict.

Mr Maltby collapsed with respiratory and cardiac failure behind Middlesbrough fire station after injecting heroin.

Firefighters John Austin and Richard Appleyard, and paramedic William Emms, battled to revive him, but he died several days later in hospital from a heroin overdose.

Invalid Mrs Maltby, 48, told Deputy Teesside Coroner Gordon Hetherington that her son often took amphetamines and cannabis, but did not regularly use heroin.

This was backed by hospital consultant Stephen Bonner at the inquest.

He said: "From memory, when I examined him, he did not have lots of needle marks, which would be characteristic of someone taking heroin.

"What would be considered a standard dose for someone else would result in him having a respiratory arrest, followed by a cardiac attack."

Mrs Maltby and her husband Brian, 50, spoke after the inquest about how their son was repeatedly beaten up for not paying dealers on time.

On one occasion, he was hit across the knees with a baseball bat after giving police the name of a dealer, she said.

Mrs Maltby said she suspected her son was introduced to heroin by someone he met while serving a sentence for shoplifting in Holme House Prison, Stockton.

She said: "If there are any youngsters experimenting with drugs, please try to get help. They don't realise how they are breaking parents' hearts by doing this. I just can't come to terms with it.

"Lee was decent and loving. He used to clean and cook for me. He was like a house husband."

Recording a verdict of misadventure on the death of Mr Maltby, who lived in Grendon Walk, Middlesbrough, Mr Hetherington said: "Unfortunately, this is yet another illustration that injecting drugs does have dangers for those who are used to it. For those who are not used to it, the dangers are greater still."