Ipswich: Family want answers over teen’s tragic methadone death

IPSWICH: The family of a 16-year-old who died after taking methadone said they are still desperate to know how he got hold of the heroin substitute.

Stephen Bennett had been living at West Villa homeless hostel in Woodbridge Road East for just two weeks when his body was found at 11.30pm on Tuesday, December 2, 2008.

An inquest into Stephen’s death held yesterday delivered a narrative verdict explaining that he had died as a result of complications following the consumption of methadone, but police have been unable to establish how he acquired the drug.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen’s brother Barry Gibbs, 31, said the family still wanted to know who had given him the methadone.

Mr Gibbs, of Tinabrook Close, Ipswich, said: “He had no problems with drinking or drugs. I had never really known him to take drugs at all.

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“He was in the Territorial Army and played football – he was just an average teenager.”

Mr Gibbs said he had taken his brother shopping on the weekend before he died and had planned to see him again a few days later.

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He said: “He was supposed to come to mine on the Wednesday (December 3). He called me on the Monday and asked me what time. I didn’t get the phone at the time and the next day I got the message and tried phoning him and couldn’t get hold of him.”

Mr Gibbs said he did not believe that Stephen, who had six brothers and sisters as well as half-siblings, would have sought out the methadone.

He said: “I still believe he was given it. There were no other drugs found in his system. We still don’t know, even though it’s two years down the line.”

Stephen was a former Westbourne High School pupil and more than 150 people attended his funeral.

An original inquest opened a year ago was adjourned while police conducted further investigations.

During yesterday’s hearing at Ip-City, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean read out evidence detailing the discovery of Stephen’s body.

He said: “He was last seen on December 1 by one of the members of staff. At about 9.30pm, he made a call to his brother Barry and was drinking from a can. It is believed that he may have been under the influence of alcohol.”

He said police had investigated “rumours” of certain residents selling methadone to others and had spoken to witnesses, who went on to change their stories.

Police did find four empty and one half-empty methadone bottles in one resident’s room, but Stephen’s fingerprints were not on them and there was “no hard evidence” that the person had supplied methadone to Stephen.

He added: “We know the cause and location of his death. There is no evidence to distinguish whether he was given the medication or whether he may have known where the medication was and tried it himself.

“I will record a verdict in a narrative form that Stephen died as a result of complications from the consumption of methadone, but the circumstances in which the methadone was consumed cannot be established.

“This is one of those unfortunate situations where, despite the efforts by the police to investigate, they were unable to establish the circumstances.

“Clearly this is still a matter that is open to police investigation and if there is anybody out there who does have the evidence they must come forward.”

n Do you have any information that may help with the inquiry? Would you like to pay tribute to Stephen? Call The Evening Star news desk on 01473 324788 or you can send an e-mail to starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

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