Wednesday 16 January 2019

'Dr Death' drugs cocktail 'claimed five lives in weeks'

A combination of cocaine and PMA, the amphetamine drug known as Dr Death, claimed the life of a fifth Dubliner in a two-month period last year.

Dean Burke (43) was found dead on the couch at his apartment in Wellmount Road, Finglas, on August 5 last year.

His inquest was the fifth at Dublin Coroner's Court in the past two months where death involved a combination of cocaine, PMA and head shop-type stimulant benzylpiperazine.

All five deaths happened over a two-month period starting in June last year.

PMA (para-Methoxyamphetamine) has been referred to as super-ecstasy and is sometimes called Dr Death.

More than 50 deaths have been attributed to the drug, including a number in Ireland. The growth in its availability prompted the Ana Liffey Drug Project to launch a campaign in July highlighting the dangers of using PMA.

The inquest heard that Mr Burke had been drinking throughout the weekend before he died.

His sister, Louise Walsh, became concerned when she could not contact him on Monday, August 5, and went to his apartment with her nephew, Warren Flynn.

They found the door to the apartment unlocked, and when they went in they saw Mr Burke on the couch.

His foot was resting on the floor and had turned a "blacky blue colour", Mr Flynn told the court.

Mr Burke was fully-covered with a sheet when he was found, and there was a man who was unknown to the family in the apartment.

However, the inquest heard that gardai ruled out any suspicious circumstances in the death.

The man refused to make a statement, but told Gda Mary Kilcommons that he had gone to Mr Burke's apartment at 7pm the previous night and the dead man was already drinking.

He told her he saw Mr Burke take what he thought was ecstasy and cocaine.


He went to sleep in one of the bedrooms at around 2am, leaving Mr Burke asleep on the couch, and woke up that afternoon when he heard screaming.

He told her he left straight away on seeing Mr Burke's body because he "was in shock".

When Mr Burke was found, rigor mortis had already set in and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

At post-mortem, the toxicology screen found evidence of cocaine use as well as PMA, benzylpiperazine, sleeping tablet Zopiclone and a small amount of alcohol.

The cocaine had been cut with horse-worming tablet Levamisole.

"PMA is often sold as ecstasy," coroner Dr Brian Farrell told the family, "but it is not ecstasy and it has a much more unpredictable effect than ecstasy has."

The cause of death was given as cardio-respiratory failure due to a combination of the drugs present in Mr Burke's system.

Dr Farrell said it is probable that he died from a "massive heart attack".

He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.


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