Drug users warned of 'lethal' synthetic opioids after three deaths in Colchester

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Essex Police
Police and drug advisors have been visiting people in Colchester after the death of three addicts. Credit: Essex Police

Police have been carrying out checks on drug users in a city after three died from taking suspected contaminated heroin.

Two people died in Colchester over the weekend of 11 and 12 May, with a third death reported the following Tuesday.

Police said a fourth man was taken ill but medics were able to treat him successfully.

Each incident is believed to be related to the consumption of Class A drugs and a drug help unit in the city has warned heroin cut with synthetic opioids is putting lives at risk.

Open Road posted on Facebook to warn the class A drug was being mixed with a substance called Nitozene which could be 1000 times more powerful than heroin.

Police safeguarding officers have been visiting Class A drug users across the city to check on them and make sure they are aware of the help and support available to them.

Det Chief Insp Neal Miller said: “We know there will be concern in the community after the tragic deaths in Colchester and we’ve worked very quickly to make three arrests so far. Of those, two people have been charged.

“Whilst this remains an ongoing investigation, with a number of lines of inquiry being meticulously followed, I hope the speed at which these arrests were made shows the strength of the work which is going on both here in Colchester and across the county to identify those people we believe are supplying drugs and preying on vulnerable people.”

Police joined up with out-reach workers from drug and alcohol recovery service Open Road whilst Colchester MP Will Quince and Colchester Council portfolio holder for communities Natalie Sommers were invited to speak to officers carrying out that work.

Police on patrol in Colchester with MP Will Quince and councillor Natalie Sommers Credit: Essex Police

No-one visited by the team had come to serious harm.

Det Sgt Mark Ghosh, Op Raptor safeguarding officer, works to support vulnerable people whose homes have been taken over by a drug line.

Det Sgt Ghosh said: “At this stage, cuckooing is not an offence in itself so as a team we have to be really proactive on these visits to see if there are other unreported criminal offences.

“Often when we speak to people, we find they may have been a robbery victim with a drugs runner or line holder being the suspect, so we can look at that as an offence in the wider investigation."

Will Quince, MP for Colchester, said: “The police here in Essex – and of course in Colchester – do a huge amount of work in tackling drugs and their supply, tracking people down and shutting down drug gangs and tackling the violence which very often runs alongside these drug networks. Unfortunately, that sometimes involves children and vulnerable people."

Colchester Councillor Natalie Sommers, portfolio holder for communities, said: “The recent drug deaths in Colchester really bring home the dangers of drug use, and how all agencies must work together to prevent vulnerable people from starting down that route to begin with."

There are a number of services available to people seeking help, all of which can be found here: https://www.essex.police.uk/police-forces/essex-police/areas/essex-police/au/about-us/referral-services/.