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Pear drink that killed Vincentian soldier contained cocaine concentration at least 20 times lethal level – Inquest

Pear drink that killed Vincentian soldier contained cocaine concentration at least 20 times lethal level – Inquest


Fri, Oct 31, 2014

The pear drink which killed Vincentian Joromie Lewis contained cocaine in a concentration at least 20 times the lethal level, an inquest has heard.

Lewis, a 33-year-old Royal Navy veteran, died after drinking a mouthful of a pear drink which was shipped from his native St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

According to the MailOnline, Lewis became ill after trying the drink, which he spat out, because of its bitter taste.

Lewis, who was working at a food import company, consumed the drink in Southampton on December 5 last year and died that night at Southampton General Hospital.

The inquest jury heard how tests showed that the drink, called Pear D – imported by his employer Kelly’s Shipping UK Ltd on behalf of a client – contained an “overwhelmingly high” concentration of cocaine.

Graham Short, coroner for Central Hampshire, said: “On December 5, 2013, Joromie drank from a bottle at his employer’s garage, where he was unpacking a delivery of drinks. The bottle was labelled Pear D, a form of pear cordial not normally available in this country.

“He took only one mouthful and he felt it tasted bitter and spat it out.

“After this he started to feel unwell and he was taken to hospital by his friends. He died later the same day at Southampton General Hospital.

“Tests of the contents of the bottle showed it had a very high concentration of the drug cocaine in solution.”

Basil Purdue, a Home Office pathologist, said he had been informed that Mr Lewis consumed the drink at the home of his employer and fell ill immediately.

He said the bottle was part of a consignment of 90 cases imported from the island of St Vincent, but the bottle had tested for dissolved cocaine – a smuggling method for the drug.

Stating that the cause of death was cocaine intoxication, Dr Purdue said toxicology tests showed that Mr Lewis had a “very high” cocaine level of 21.3mg per litre of blood, with a fatal level being as low as 1mg.

He added that one of Mr Lewis’s colleagues put some of the liquid on his tongue and it caused it to go numb for three hours.

Juanette Allen, company secretary of Kelly’s Shipping UK Ltd, said the firm imported drinks from the Caribbean at the request of customers.

She said: “In this case we didn’t source the drink, we just facilitated the process of bringing it from St Vincent to the UK.”

She explained that the van-load of drinks arrived at Portsmouth docks on November 24 and, once duties had been paid, Lewis collected it two days later and took it to the garage at Allen’s home in Southampton, where the company is based.

She said Lewis arrived at her home at about 6.30 p.m. with a colleague, Carlos Deabreu, with a van of items collected for export.

She said he picked up a bottle to drink, which he was allowed to do, and she saw him in the kitchen drinking a mouthful from it.

She said: “When he had a sip of it he said it didn’t taste right. I am not sure if he swallowed; because he went out to the sink, I do not know how much he swallowed.

“He was trying to get it all out, trying to make himself sick. I asked him when he said it didn’t taste right, I asked him if he broke the seal on the bottle. He said ‘yes’.”

She said he complained of the bitter taste from the drink which he pointed out was not carbonated as it should have been and asked for some sugar to get rid of the taste.

‘Since this incident we have not imported any drinks, not for the customer, not for ourselves. We have taken the decision that any drink we have to source ourselves.”

Allen said she had known Mr Lewis, who was paid £10-an-hour for his work, since they had both lived in St Vincent and they had joined the Navy at the same time.

The jury heard that the pear fruit drink containing deadly levels of cocaine had a street value of up to £50,000.

He said the rest of the consignment was not recovered, including other bottles of Pear D imported at the same time, and he believed that someone slipped the contaminated bottle into the crates being exported.

He said the customer, a Samantha McDadi, was investigated, but not traced, with her telephone number and email address no longer in use, and he added that he did not believe this was a genuine identity.

The inquest continues. (Julian Robinson for MailOnline)