Police have today made a further arrest as part of an investigation into the deaths of four young people. Of those four people, two were Newcastle University students both aged 18, one was a student from neighbouring Northumbria University aged 21, and one 18-year-old man from neighbouring Washington also died.
This latest arrest – of a man in his 30s on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs – brings the total number made as part of the investigation up to 11. All those arrested so far have been released on bail. The police have said that ketamine and MDMA were “suspected to have been a factor in the death of the students” but Chief Inspector Steve Wykes said it was too early to say whether a bad batch of drugs was involved.
A large-scale investigation was launched after the first student was discovered unconscious on Saturday morning and later pronounced dead at the scene of Richardson Road in Newcastle, where Park View student village halls are located. Later that afternoon, a man suffered a cardiac arrest on the Coach Road estate in Washington, Sunderland – reportedly after taking MDMA. On Sunday morning, a 21-year-old Northumbria University student became ill and police were called to Newcastle’s Melbourne street – the man later died in hospital. On Sunday afternoon, a second 18-year-old student died after being found at the same address the student found on Saturday morning. Since then officers have been working with both universities by searching student accommodation with sniffer dogs, providing an increase in the number of patrols in the area, and said that its thoughts are with the families of all of those who died.
Yesterday, one of the students – the first to be found – was named as 18 year old Jenny Larmour from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland who was studying architecture and urban planning at Newcastle University. Ms Larmour had attended The Royal School Armagh who paid tribute to her describing her as a model pupil who had a great future ahead of her.
“Her outstanding qualities as a pupil were recognised in her final year when she was appointed deputy head girl, a role she carried out to a very high standard”Graham Montgomery, Headteacher – The Royal School Aramagh
Newcastle University said the students in question had been in the city for less than 48 hours when they died. The Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University, Chris Day, wrote to students to warn them about the incident in which he said the University had ample support, whatever difficulties students may be facing:
“We are all heartbroken and our thoughts and condolences are with their families, friends and loved ones at this most difficult of times. We know that many of you will be affected by this distressing news. Whatever difficulties you have gone through, we have ample support both at the university and in the city, Whatever those problems are, please do not turn to excessive alcohol or drugs to solve them because you have seen the potential consequences.”Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor – Newcastle University
In a further statement today, Chief Inspector Wykes encouraged any students in possession of illegal drugs to contact either the University well-being teams or visit their local police station in order to dispose of them safely:
“We are committed to tackling illegal drugs supply as these substances have no place in our communities.
If you are in possession of illegal drugs, we would encourage you to dispose of them safely and not run the risk of causing yourself any harm by taking them. We also don’t want anyone else being put at risk if they are not disposed of responsibly, for example if they are left somewhere where they could be picked up”Chief Inspector Steve Wykes – Northumbria Police
The deaths of four young people is always distressing, but for three of them to be students comes at what was already a distressing time for those at both universities where large numbers of people have already tested positive for coronavirus and anxieties are therefore already high among both students and parents. These three deaths, however, do come as a reminder of the dangers that exist apart from COVID, and the risk of the misuse of illegal drugs.