THE PSNI today confirmed that a senior detective is heading up a probe into drug-related deaths over this past year.
Detective Superintendent Andrea McMullan from Organised Crime Branch has met with the Coroner, the State Pathologist and officials at the Department of Health, Forensic Science NI and other agencies as part of her role.
The deaths have been the subject of detailed investigation locally by District officers. In addition, these investigations are being co-ordinated by Detective Superintendent McMullan to ensure any possible linkages are made and progressed.
D/Superintendent McMullan said it was important that there was a full and accurate understanding of evidence given at an inquest earlier this week about a substance linked to several deaths last year.
She said: “The substance is para-methyl-4-methylaminorex and is not confined to one particular brand of tablet. It has been identified in a number of tablets and in a number of deaths.
“People should not lull themselves into a false sense of security by thinking if they avoid tablet X and only take tablet Y or Z they’ll be ok.
“The tragic reality is they will not. Anyone who takes illegal drugs runs a serious risk of causing themselves serious harm or killing themselves. There is no safe illegal drug.”
Police investigations into the drugs-related deaths last summer resulted in a total of 11 arrests.
One person has appeared in court.
Three others were awaiting court proceedings but one has since died.
Police say work has also been done to identify the supply chain of the drugs concerned to look at any linkages between the deaths.
For example, the person who sells drugs to a member of the public is just one link in a long chain of organised crime.
Other links involve supply, distribution and manufacture. Those involved either have been or are currently the subject of significant organised crime investigations into related criminality.
D/Superintendent McMullan said: “We are determined to play a dynamic role in tackling the drugs problem.
“Despite the substantial demands on police resources last year in terms of major events and public order situations, the number of drugs seizures increased by almost 8% to more than 4,800.
“There was a 3% increase in arrests to more than 2,800 and a 25% increase in ecstasy seizures to more than 8,200 tablets.
“We will continue with this proactive investigative and enforcement work but the drugs problem cannot be solved by police alone.
“That is why we are working closely with experts and officials in the fields of health, education, forensic science and the criminal justice system.
“We want to ensure that we are doing everything possible to prevent the supply of drugs and arrest those involved but at the same time make people aware of the real dangers they face to their health and their lives if they take illegal or controlled drugs.
“Police would take this opportunity to again warn members of the public:
• Do not take controlled drugs.
• Do not take prescription medication that has not been prescribed for you.
• Do not mix either with alcohol.
The consequences of ignoring this advice are extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
Police would ask anyone who is aware of any individual involved in the supply of controlled drugs to contact their local police on 101.
Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”