Hunt for deadly drugs batch after three killed over weekend in Derry

Police in Londonderry are trying to locate a deadly batch of a variant of the drug pregabalin which they have linked to three deaths and five drugs-related cardiac arrests among users in the city last weekend.

The disclosure was made at the Bishop Street magistrates' court by a police officer during the appearance of a 36-year-old woman who is charged with drugs offences.

The defendant, who was granted anonymity after a police officer said she could be at risk from criminal elements in the city, was refused bail and remanded in custody.

The police witness told District Judge Barney McElholm that the pregabalin tablets were four times stronger than normal and that six blister packs of the drugs were missing.

He said the defendant was arrested after the police were called to an address last Saturday following a report that a 20-year-old man had had a cardiac arrest. The man, who died, had a 15 tablet blister pack on him with three of the tablets missing.

The deceased's friend gave the police details of a woman who had sold them the drugs. Officers went to the defendant's address where they found 76 pregabalin tablets, which matched those found on the deceased, as well as a sum of money.

The witness said during her police interview following her arrest, the defendant said she was aware that the batch of pregabalin was so strong that she had reduced her daily intake from 15 to four.

She said she had bought the drugs from her dealer who she refused to name.

The district judge said that "people with grossly evil intent" were making new variants from the drug and he warned that anyone involved in the supply chain would, upon conviction, be met with the full force of the law.

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