A teenage student who was one of four young people to die in suspected drug incidents over the weekend had been a ‘model pupil’, her former school said.
Jeni Larmour was one of two 18-year-old freshers who died in Newcastle University student accommodation after they were thought to have taken ketamine.
Both women were said to have been on campus for less than 48 hours, with Miss Larmour is thought to have been found unresponsive at 6am on Saturday.
The second unnamed student was discovered at 1pm on Sunday, but it is not known if they were from the same household within the Park View student village.
Students said drugs were readily available through Snapchat and WhatsApp – and there were rumours of a rogue batch of pills being offered around the campus.
Separately, an 18-year-old man from nearby Washington, who was not a student, and a 21-year-old Northumbria University student died after allegedly taking MDMA.
Jeni Larmour was a former Deputy Head Girl at the Royal School in Armagh, Northern Ireland
Suspected drug related deaths took place in Newcastle and Tyne and Wear over the weekend
Miss Larmour was set to study architecture and urban planning at Newcastle University
Newcastle University student Miss Larmour (pictured) is thought to have taken ketamine
Northumbria Police arrested a total of ten people following the four deaths and carried out searches of student accommodation using drugs dogs.
Miss Larmour had been deputy head girl at The Royal School in Armagh, Northern Ireland, with headteacher Graham Montgomery praising her as ‘a model pupil, exemplifying many of the values which this school seeks to promote’.
She was an enthusiastic pupil who joined in school activities and ‘was blessed with a beautiful singing voice’, he added.
‘Jeni was a spirited and independently-minded girl with clear views which she was happy to articulate in a respectful manner, and she was possessed of a well-developed sense of justice.
‘We have no doubt that, given her academic ability and personality, Jeni had a bright future ahead of her and we are saddened that has been so suddenly cut short.
‘We extend to her many friends, her family, brother, and parents our sincerest sympathy at this tragic time and assure them of our prayers and practical support.’
Miss Larmour, from Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, a member of her former school’s chamber choir and combined cadet force, had been due to start an architecture and urban planning degree.
Sandra Foster Larmour issued a brief tribute to her daughter on social media which read only: ‘My beautiful princess, my best friend.’
The other three individuals have not yet been identified. Newcastle University said it did not write to students until after the second incident.
Vice Chancellor professor Chris Day said: ‘I have written twice to every single student in the last 24 hours.
‘Once yesterday afternoon … to make sure we hit students with a particularly hard message. I have written to them again this morning when we had a bit more detail.’
Mr Day added that the two young women had only recently arrived at the university, saying: ‘They have only been here 24 hours, 48 hours, so this was not about lack of support, this was about a very, very tragic set of circumstances.’
Students at the university said they believed the North East’s coronavirus lockdown may have contributed to the deaths.
A police specialist search team arrives at the student accommodation on the Richardson Road area of Newcastle yesterday afternoon after two 18-year-old woman were pronounced dead
Miss Larmour’s mother Sandra wrote on Facebook: ‘My beautiful princess, my best friend’
Police at student accommodation on the Richardson Road area of Newcastle yesterday morning, two days after paramedics rushed to the halls on Saturday morning
One said: ‘People want the freshers experience but they can’t have it because everything is shutting down at 10pm.
‘Even the local shop closes at 10pm so you can’t get alcohol. People might be trying drugs who wouldn’t do otherwise because there’s nothing to do except go back to your flat at the halls.’
An 18-year-old girl from a neighbouring block said: ‘The word around the student village is that a bad batch of pills has been offered around and some people have got hold of them. Lockdown hasn’t helped the situation.
‘The pubs close at 10pm and people have been going back to their flat in halls to continue the party, which is what I heard happened here.
‘At least one of the others who died are also students. We’re not having what would be a normal freshers’ experience and some people are compensating for that.
‘It’s so sad and I feel really bad for her parents. I haven’t sought out or been offered drugs but I know they’d be easy to come by, I’ve heard people are buying them through Snapchat and WhatsApp.
‘This is everything you are warned about, you don’t know who you’re buying from or what you’re buying.’
Professor Fiona Measham, chair in criminology at Liverpool University and co-founder of The Loop – a harm reduction charity which promotes health and well-being in nightlife venues – said freshers’ week in lockdown may have played a part in the deaths.
‘There’s no nightclubs, and pubs close at 10pm,’ she said.
‘Nightclubs are a semi-safe space, they have registered door staff and security, the bigger clubs often have paramedics, they have chill out spaces.
‘If you don’t have nightclubs open, you lose that safety net.’
But Mr Day disagreed, saying freshers’ week had barely begun, and stressed that there are support services for new students.
‘Whatever difficulties you have gone through, we have ample support both at the university and in the city,’ he said.
‘Whatever those problems are, please do not turn to excessive alcohol or drugs to solve them because you have seen the potential consequences.’
Chief Inspector Steve Wykes said: ‘Illegal drugs are never safe and the danger that they pose cannot be under-estimated.
‘Although our investigations are at an early stage and we continue to establish the circumstances around these tragedies, we want to reiterate our warning to people against taking drugs for recreational use.’