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'Think twice' before taking drugs, pleads grieving mother

Caitlin McVeigh-Conlon (left) pictured with her mother, Paula Conlon
Marie Louise McConville

A grieving mother has pleaded with young people to "think twice" before taking drugs after her 18-year-old daughter was found dead just hours after taking ecstasy and cocaine.

An inquest held yesterday into the death of Caitlin McVeigh-Conlon, from Lenadoon in west Belfast, heard how she "never really had a chance to start her life when it was taken from her by illegal drugs".

The court heard that Ms McVeigh-Conlon died after the drugs found in her system induced one or more fatal epileptic-style seizures.

The teenager had just moved into a new house in Poleglass with her partner and six month old child when the tragedy occurred on their first night in the new property.

The inquest heard that Ms McVeigh-Conlon’s mother, Paula Conlon had been at her daughter’s house at Colinbrook Drive on Saturday, February 27, 2016, helping her to hang new curtains.

The grandmother and mother-of-four left her daughter’s house just before midnight.

The next day, she received news at around 5pm that her daughter had been found dead in bed.

During the hearing, the court heard the harrowing 999 call made by Ms McVeigh-Conlon’s partner, Dylan Conlon in which he appealed for help, saying his partner had “turned blue” and was “biting her tongue”.

“Her whole body is locked. I need an ambulance right now”.

A paramedic who arrived first on the scene found Ms McVeigh-Conlon lying on a bed.

He told the court she was cold and had no output, adding that signs of rigor mortis had set in.

Professor Jack Crane, Acting State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, who performed a post-mortem examination, told the court that both MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine had been found in the young mother’s system.

He told the court that there were also traces of cannabis, diazepam, anti-depressants, paracetamol and codeine, however none were of particularly high levels.

He said the combination of ecstasy and cocaine would have induced “an epileptic-style seizure or seizures”.

“Her death occurred shortly after cocaine was taken,” he said.

The court also heard that Ms McVeigh-Conlon had been prescribed anti-depressants in the months following the birth of her daughter as she was “feeling depressed” however, she had not expressed any suicidal thoughts.

Coroner Joe McCrisken ruled that Ms McVeigh-Conlon had died as a result of poisoning by MDMA and cocaine.

Mr McCrisken also appealed directly to those involved with "destructive" illegal drugs.

“Caitlin never really had a chance to start her life when it was taken from her by illegal drugs,” he said.

“I know Caitlin’s family will join me in pleading with young people to properly think before they take any drugs not prescribed by a GP.

“I really do plead with people to think about not just themselves but the people left behind”.

Paula Conlon said her daughter had been looking forward to the future when she died.

“It’s like I have lost myself,” she said.

“I keep looking for her. It’s as if I’m not here. She was just like me, she was very outgoing and very friendly. She will live on through her whole family. No-one is ever going to let anyone forget her”.

The mother-of-four also revealed that her daughter had no history of drug use.

“I didn’t even think she would have known what those drugs were,” she said.

“Nobody will ever take her place. I will keep her memory alive forever. Her daughter will never forget her. She still kisses pictures of her mummy”.

She added: “She was bubbly. She just lived for her child. She loved her. She was all bizz getting her room all done. She couldn’t wait”.

The Lenadoon mother appealed to those involved with drugs to “think twice” before taking them, adding that she would be happy to help anyone in the community, including any parents, who need assistance.

Ms Conlon also revealed that she has lodged two complaints with the Police Ombudsman regarding the police investigation into her daughter's sudden death.

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said: "We are investigating a complaint that police failed to properly investigate the death of an 18-year-old girl in the Dunmurry area in February last year. Our enquiries are ongoing".

Meanwhile, in an unusual step, Mr McCrisken also told the inquest that he intended to take action against Dylan Conlon, Ms McVeigh-Conlon’s partner, who failed to attend court to give evidence.

He said he had been provided with no “reasonable excuse” for his non-attendance and would be pursuing a £1,000 fine.

Mr McCrisken said he intended to take steps to recoup the full amount from Mr Conlon and "explore other penalties for not attending”.

“A coroner requires you attend, bottom line is, you attend. It is not optional”.

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