DETECTIVES investigating the deaths of up to eight people as a result of drug taking have arrested three people in recent weeks, the PSNI have revealed.
The suspects were quizzed by officers from the PSNI’s Organisd Crime Branch about the supply and distribution of Class A drugs.
Up to eight people, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have died in recent weeks in Belfast and the north west of the province.
On Friday, police chiefs said no single killer drug was responsible for the deaths of eight people in Belfast and Coleraine over the last four weeks.
Investigations are continuing, but the PSNI said on Friday that they did not believe there was a link connecting all eight deaths.
In the last four weeks, three people have been arrested and questioned in connection with the deaths.
However, they are not being treated as murder.
Detetective Chief Supt Roy McComb, head of the Organised Crime Branch, said on Friday that the deaths were “eight individual tragedies”.
Last year nearly 1,400 people were charged with drugs offences – an increase of almost 16% on the year before.
Police refuted suggestions that they were not doing enough to tackle drugs in Northern Ireland.
The eight deaths were, at one stage, thought to be linked to a green-coloured tablet with a crown or a castle logo.
Police investigated the deaths of eight people – all aged in their 20s and 30s.
Seven died in Belfast and one in the north west.
It is understood five men who died were from east Belfast.
Earlier this week, the PSNI warned that Ecstasy pills seized by police in Northern Ireland contain highly toxic chemicals.
It follows forensic tests at a laboratory which have revealed their deadly potent to users.
Detectives said the drugs, dubbed ‘green Rolexes’ with ‘Crowns’ or ‘Castles’ stamped on them, are mixed with PMA and PMMA and have been linked to numerous deaths worldwide.
Police are still awaiting the results of forensic tests in connection with the eight unexplained deaths currently under investigation.
Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop said: “Both dealers and users may be unaware that what they believe to be Ecstasy actually contains PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine).
“PMMA pills are slower to take effect. This may cause the user to take more – which can lead to seizures, convulsions, heart attack and ultimately death.”
A predominant symptom of fatalities around the globe has been over-heating of the body.
The dangerous chemicals have also been found in other coloured pills bearing different logos throughout Great Britain, Europe and in Canada.
“They have been directly linked to death,” Mr Dunlop added.
“There is no such thing as a safe drug or a safe dose.
“Anyone found suffering ill-effects after having taken drugs should be treated as a medical emergency.
“PMA is slow to take effect.
“Users taking more of the same place themselves at significant risk”.
Anyone with information on the supply of drugs can contact the PSNI on 0845 600 8000.
On Tuesday, the head of the PSNI’s Crime Operations Branch, denied claims by Health Minister Edwin Poots that the police were turning a blind eye to small time dealers to catch the main culprits.
ACC Drew Harris said: “The PSNI works hard to tackle the issue of drugs and any suggestion we protect those dealing in drugs is unfounded.
“We understand the misery drugs can cause to communities, to families, to those who get involved in drugs and we continue to disrupt and arrest those involved in the sale and supply of drugs, bring individuals before the courts and work with communities and partner agencies to reduce the threat of harmful and illegal activity.”
ACC Harris added that in the last year nearly 2,800 people were arrested by the PSNI and held to account for drugs offences.
- There were also over 4,400 drug seizures valued at £10.2million.
“Compared to the previous year, 14% more people were charged in relation to drug offences,” he added.
“We also ran a specific operation, Operation Torus, aimed at tackling street-level drug dealing during which we seized suspected drugs estimated to be worth over £1 million and made more than 400 arrests.
“Drugs remain a policing priority but we also need the help of the public – we need people to come forward and tell us if they know anything about illegal drugs being sold or distributed in their local area.”