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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Lethal street pills warning after death of Cumbrian teenager

Drug experts have issued a warning about deadly street pills that have been implicated in the death of a north Cumbrian teenager.

Callum  Burton photo
Callum Burton

A judge at Carlisle Crown Court said the tragedy that cost the life of 16-year-old Mark Dixon, who was planning to join the Army, should serve as a stark warning to all young people who take drugs.

The teenager died after taking a cocktail of substances that included PMA pills – often sold as Ecstasy but which experts say is far more deadly.

Mark’s brother Andrew was storing the pills at their Penrith home for his drug dealing pal Callum Burton.

Nineteen-year-old Burton, of Brougham Street, Penrith, was today beginning a four year sentence in a young offenders institution.

He admitted offering to supply the PMA pills to a friend and having cannabis, but he denied possessing the pills which helped kill Mark with intent to supply them.

It took a jury just 20 minutes to convict him.

Judge Paul Batty QC described Burton’s crime as “heartless in the extreme.”

Passing sentence, the judge said: “This case should be an object lesson to youngsters who take drugs, whether it be Ecstasy, LSD, or any other type of illicit drug.”

The judge told Burton, who brought the pills back with him from Manchester: “The consequences of your actions in bringing this drug, PMA, from Manchester to Penrith in order, as the jury has found, that you could sell it, is that the young man Mark Dixon lost his life. I accept, of course, that you didn’t intend that.”

Earlier, the jury had heard Burton freely admit that he started street dealing Ecstasy when he lived in Manchester, saying he did it to settle an £800 debt to a man who had threatened him.

Judge Batty rejected his claim that he was under duress, pointing out a text messages from Burton in which he told a friend he intended to “make serious money” when he got home from Manchester, and would follow this with a “season” of drug dealing in Ibiza.

The trial was told how Burton bought what he said he believed were between six and eight Ecstasy tablets for £20 in a Manchester nightclub.

He returned to Penrith with the pills – PMA tablets – on October 4 last year and his friend Andrew Dixon looked after them at his home in Croft Terrace, Penrith, where he and Mark shared a bedroom.

In text messages, he said the tablets were more like “Dumbledore” than the less powerful wizard “Harry Potter,” suggesting he knew they were stronger than Ecstasy.

The court also heard how when Mark Dixon became ill, on October 8, Burton declined to tell the paramedics what pills he had probably taken.

Pathology tests showed the 16-year-old took amphetamine, cocaine, and PMA.

A probation worker in court said the defendant described himself as “heartbroken” by Mar Dixon’s death.

“He says he’s learned a massive lesson and now hates drugs. As a result of this, he’s been called a murderer and he’s found it very difficult to cope with.”

Mark Shepherd, for Burton, said he returned to Cumbria to escape the drugs world, knowing he was out of his depth.

“He is now completely free and determined to go down a different path,” added Mr Shepherd.

Phil Sharp, from Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service, said PMA tablets were particularly deadly because while they are often sold as Ecstasy they are more potent and take longer to have an effect on the user.

“So people often take more and end up double dosing. There’s no way of telling them apart from Ecstasy, but they’re much more dangerous.

“They can cause the body to massively overheat, and the organs to shut down. There have been a number of deaths in England and Wales linked to these tablets.”

Anybody who wants to know more about PMA can contact CADAS on 01228 544140.

The Starlight Paramedic Services first-aid training organisation in Wales has also warned about PMA, saying: “Death can occur when an ecstasy user believes they are consuming recreational doses of [the drug], when they are in fact consuming a lethal dose of another substance.”

Mark Dixon was planning to join the Army. A keen skateboarder, he was regularly seen at Penrith Skate Park, and loved walking the family’s Labrador Bonnie.

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