Northern Ireland news

Mother of ketamine death university student says inquest has vindicated daughter

Jeni Larmour from Newtownhamilton was found dead in student accommodation in Newcastle
Tom Wilkinson, PA

The mother of a talented student who died on her first night at university after taking ketamine given to her by someone else said she feels “vindicated” after an inquest into the death.

Jeni Larmour, 18, from Newtonhamilton, Northern Ireland, died hours after arriving at Newcastle University in October 2020, after she drank with new flatmates and sniffed the tranquilliser with one of them.

Kavir Kalliecharan, 20, from Leeds, was later charged with possessing drugs, but not supplying them and told police the ketamine was Ms Larmour’s.

But Newcastle Coroner Karen Dilks, who recorded a conclusion of misadventure, said, on the balance of probability, that the ketamine which killed Ms Larmour in combination with the alcohol, had been “provided by another”.

After the hearing, Sandra Larmour, flanked by her husband David, read a statement in which she said: “Today I leave this court feeling in pain but knowing my daughter has been vindicated.”

Speaking about attending Mr Kalliecharan’s drug possession trial, Mrs Larmour said: “I have had to hear that the substance that killed Jeni was her own and that she was wilfully engaged in the supplying of drugs to others.

“I have always known this could not be further from the truth, particularly given that just a few hours earlier Jeni had boarded a plane with me from Belfast to Newcastle meaning she would have had to have taken the substance with her.

“The coroner’s acknowledgement that the drugs were provided to her by another, or in other words not her own, is a comfort to us, getting out to her friends and the community of Northern Ireland that she was innocent in all of this.”

The inquest was told Ms Larmour had forgotten her ID while on a trip out to a city centre bar that night and was accompanied back to the flat by Mr Kalliecharan where they both took ketamine in his bedroom.

The grieving mother said the family has not had any apology from Mr Kalliecharan, who is now studying away from Newcastle University.

Mrs Larmour, who remained proud of her daughter’s achievements, said: “This is not the end for us.”

She added: “I will leave no stone unturned for my daughter”.

The coroner said Ms Larmour had arrived in Newcastle the day she died and drunk alcohol with her new flat mates between 5-7pm.

Mrs Dilks said: “Later that evening, while her judgment was impaired due to alcohol, Jeni took a quantity of ketamine provided for her by another, the combined effects of which led to her death.”

Specialist police officers using sniffer dogs searched the flat in Park View halls and found ketamine, cannabis and MDMA in Mr Kalliecharan’s room, but he insisted the ketamine was not his.

The inquest was told no other drugs were found in any of the student rooms in the flat, including none in Ms Larmour’s room.

Ms Larmour had filmed a Snapchat video on her mobile phone which was not played in open court, but which witnesses saw, showing her in Mr Kalliecharan’s bedroom, with a white powder on a table.

Andrew Metcalfe, then an acting detective sergeant with Northumbria Police, confirmed that the video showed there was no evidence of either Ms Larmour or Mr Kalliecharan coercing or pressuring the other to take drugs.

In evidence on Tuesday, Mr Kalliecharan claimed he was rendered sick by the drug and vomited for hours before falling asleep, and woke to found Ms Larmour lifeless, lying face down on his bedroom floor at around 5am.

Mr Kalliecharan had told Ms Larmour before they took the drugs: “This is how we do it in England.”

He insisted that this was the first time he had taken ketamine, telling the coroner what he meant by that expression was that this was the English university experience.

Immediately after her death he told flatmates he felt it was his “fault”, explaining at the inquest he felt “guilt”, not in a criminal sense, but “moral responsibility”.

Lucy Backhurst, the university’s academic registrar and director of student services, said the university had a compulsory online induction programme with information about drink and drugs for new students.

But the messaging was not easy, she admitted, and following Ms Larmour’s death there was a backlash when the Vice-Chancellor emailed students a “stark” warning about the risks of drink and drugs.

Ms Backhurst said: “We got an awful lot of kick-back from students (saying) ‘Who do you think you are telling us what to do?’”

She added: “It’s a balance. Students need to be aware of the risks, dangers and signs, and we have done an awful lot before 2020 and subsequently to try to raise awareness.”

Mrs Dilks urged the university to look again at its induction course on drink and drugs, given that none of the flatmates who gave evidence at the inquest could recall any information from it.

The coroner did say the university’s work on drink and drugs advice was continually evolving and said it was working well with other organisations on its programme.