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Tributes are paid to ‘one of a kind’ 18-year old who died after taking MDMA

Tributes have been paid to a ‘one of a kind’ 18-year-old who was one of four youngsters to die in suspected drug incidents in the North East over the weekend. 

Mark Johnston had been with friends at an upstairs flat in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

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Police believe he took a quantity of MDMA and fell seriously ill at 3.50pm at the flat. Two women, believed to be family members, rushed to the scene. 

Neighbours described their distress after one briefly got into the ambulance with Mark. Online tributes included: ‘Rip Mark Johnston one of a kind.’ 

Another wrote: ‘Rest easy my friend. You will be missed.’ 

He became one of four young people in the North East to die as a result of taking drugs on a weekend of tragedy. 

Mark Johnston had been with friends at an upstairs flat in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in the early hours of Saturday morning. Police believe he took a quantity of MDMA and fell seriously ill at 3.50pm at the flat. Two women, believed to be family members, rushed to the scene

Suspected drug related deaths took place in Newcastle and Tyne and Wear over the weekend

Suspected drug related deaths took place in Newcastle and Tyne and Wear over the weekend

One tenant told the Mirror: ‘For the past 18 months it’s been a horrible place to live because there has been nothing but noise, drunkenness and disruption to everyone’s lives.

‘There was a part there in the early hours of Saturday, it looked as though there were a lot of people in the flat, a mixed group of young men and women.

‘Then suddenly in the afternoon ambulances started turning up and a young lad was carried out.  It was absolutely awful.

‘He was no more than a boy, a young lad, and he’s lost his life needlessly. I feel so sorry for his family, they were distraught. 

‘Anyone who saw that happening wouldn’t go near drugs again in their life.’

Mark was a former pupil at Biddick School and only turned 18 during the summer. He was described by a member of his family as a ‘kind, nice, funny young lad’. 

It comes as Jeni Larmour was named as one of two  18-year-old freshers who died in Newcastle University student accommodation after they were thought to have taken ketamine.

Miss Larmour was set to study architecture and urban planning at Newcastle University

Miss Larmour was set to study architecture and urban planning at Newcastle University

Newcastle University student Miss Larmour is thought to have taken ketamine

Miss Larmour died on Saturday

Newcastle University student Miss Larmour (pictured) is 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.

Did freshers’ week in lockdown play a part in the students’ deaths?

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 Newcastle University pro-vice chancellor Professor Chris 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.’ 

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. 

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. 

Police at student accommodation on the Richardson Road area of Newcastle yesterday morning, two days after paramedics rushed to the halls on Saturday morning

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.

How four young people died in ‘drugs-related deaths’ over the weekend in Newcastle 

Saturday, 6.05am: Police received reports of an unresponsive woman at an address on Richardson Road in Newcastle. Jeni Larmour, 18, who was a student at Newcastle University, is believed to have taken a quantity of ketamine and was pronounced dead at the scene. An 18-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of supplying a Class B drug and has since been released on police bail.

Saturday, 3.50pm: Police are called to a report of a cardiac arrest at a property on Coach Road Estate in Washington, where an 18-year-old had allegedly taken a quantity of MDMA and fallen ill. Officers and emergency services attended but the man, who is not a university student, was pronounced dead a short time after. Seven people were arrested in connection with this incident and have been released under investigation.

Sunday, 8.13am: Police were alerted to a report that a 21-year-old student from Northumbria University had taken ill at an address on Melbourne Street, Newcastle. It is suspected he had taken a quantity of MDMA. He was transported to hospital, but died a short time later. A 20-year-old male arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs has since been released on police bail.

Sunday, 1.10pm: Police received a further call to the same building on Richardson Road, where the first woman was found. Another 18-year-old student had died, and it is believed ketamine had been present at the address. An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of supplying a controlled drug and has been bailed.

‘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.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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