No evidence to connect South Essex summer drug death victims

There is no clear scientific evidence to show a link between the victims of a spate of suspected drug-related deaths in South Essex at the end of July, says Essex Police.

An investigation was launched after six people died in the space of three days – July 28-30 – in the Westcliff, Leigh, Benfleet and Canvey areas.

Due to the closeness of the deaths, in both time and geography, and the possibility of Class A drug use, an investigation was launched to determine whether the deaths may be linked.

Whilst post mortems and detailed toxicology tests were carried out, in the interest of public safety, Essex Police and their partners in health and support services asked drug users within South Essex to refrain from Class A drug use to ensure their safety.

Following results of a toxicology report received on Friday August 9, police were able to confirm that the death of a man in his 40s from Canvey on Tuesday July 30 was being treated as a potential medical episode and a file would be passed to the coroner.

Now, following a further toxicology report into the other five deaths and further investigations, police say there is no clear link between the victims.

Chief Supt Kevin Baldwin, South LPA Commander, said: “Given the high number of tragic deaths that occurred in such a short space of time and in areas of the county very close to one another, it would have been remiss of Essex Police not to have carried out a full and robust investigation.
“As we suspected that a number of the deaths were drug-related we had to take every precaution to warn and inform those members of our community who do use illegal drugs. This was to ensure their safety and of course to prevent the possibility of further deaths or illness.

“We worked with our partners in health, support services and local authorities to ensure we did all we could to get our safety message out and protect our communities.

“Whilst the expert findings now show that these deaths were not scientifically linked, we must not forget that six people have sadly passed away and our thoughts remain with them and their families.

“Since our investigation began we have not had any further reports of deaths in similar circumstances.

“We would continue to remind people that the taking of any illegal drugs will always bring risk as you can never really be sure of exactly what you are taking.

“Our officers, including our specialist Op Raptor teams, continue to do all we can to arrest those who think they can deal illegal drugs on the streets of our county.”
Files for all those who died will now be prepared for Her Majesty’s Coroner.

Two men, a 36-year-old from London and a 29-year-old from Grays, were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs in connection with the investigation. They have been released on conditional bail until October.

If you have any information about drug-related crime in your community call us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Mick Ferris

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