‘Legal high’ student’s death was caused by ecstasy

A student whose suspected death from a “legal high” caused a national outcry was killed by the class A drug ecstasy.

A student whose suspected death from a “legal high” caused a national outcry was killed by the class A drug ecstasy.

• Teenager’s death sparked crackdown on legal highs

• Death certificate reveals Class A was to blame

Alex Heriot, 19, collapsed at the Rock Ness music festival in June last year after reportedly taking Benzo Fury.

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His death prompted calls for a crackdown on legal highs – drugs which are chemically related to banned substances but are typically sold as “plant food” or “bath salts”.

But the recently-issued death certificate for the Edinburgh teenager reveals that the cause of death was “ecstasy toxicity”.

The Crown Office has confirmed that, despite a major investigation, no-one will be prosecuted for supplying the ecstasy to Alex and his friends.

One drug expert said the case of Alex Heriot was a reminder to drug users and the authorities alike that existing Class A substances continue to claim the lives of Scots each year.

Radical overhaul

Alex and two friends were rushed to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, after taking a drug at the festival, reported as Benzo Fury.

Drug experts called for a radical overhaul of drug laws to ban all legal highs until they could be proved safe.

Alex’s mother, Deirdre, said at the time: “As a young man who enjoyed life it was unfortunate he chose to experiment with a drug that had such a catastrophic effect on his system.”

But one of Scotland’s most respected pathologists, Anthony Busuttil, said the wording of the death certificate “conclusively proves” Alex was killed by ecstasy rather than a legal high.

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The Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University said: “The result of the report could not be taken to refer to any other substance.

“It doesn’t mean there was no other drug in the body though – the investigators may have found other chemicals present such as alcohol and, yes, possibly even Benzo Fury.

“But what it conclusively proves is that ecstasy was the substance that proved fatal regardless of the other present chemicals – they would not have used those words otherwise.”

Robert Anderson, a forensic toxicologist at Glasgow University, said: “It’s not counter-productive by any means to alert people of the dangers of substances like Benzo Fury.

Known dangers

“But more focus needs to be brought back to known dangers such ecstasy and heroin and in particular the dosage and what they take it with.”

Kenny Simpson, a drugs expert with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said alcohol was likely to have played a role.

He said: “In my experience of dealing with these incidents, problems associated with ecstasy arise because they are taken after the user has had their fill of alcohol.

“On top of that, no-one knows what they are getting – it’s more common now to see ecstasy tablets that are only one to three per cent pure with the rest being glucose and sugar.”

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The Crown Office said the findings of the post-mortem marked the end of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Alex’s death.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “After full and careful investigation of the facts and circumstances, Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit concluded that no further action was required.

“We have kept the next of kin updated throughout the process.”

A source close to the investigation said police had tried to identify the dealer who supplied Alex and his friends at Rock Ness but had “failed to conclusively identify a source”.


A spokeswoman for Northern Constabulary – the force which carried out the investigation – said: “The incident was fully investigated at the time and a report was sent to the procurator fiscal.”

No one from Alex’s family was available for comment.

The Apothecary store in Edinburgh was raided by Lothian and Borders Police shortly after Alex’s death and boxes and bags of materials taken away.

No-one at the store was prepared to comment.