inquest | 

Coroner’s warning as tragic mum (21) dies after mixing alcohol with etizolam

She explained that etizolam and alcohol both give similar side effects as they impact the part of the brain which controls breathing

Lindsey Boyd

Kurtis ReidBelfast Telegraph

An inquest into the death of a young mother from Co Derry has ruled she died of a lethal combination of an illicit drug and alcohol.

Lindsey Boyd (21) from Coleraine was found in the hallway of a home in the Bushmills Road area of the town on September 2, 2020.

Her death sparked a campaign group calling for answers, with nearly 2,000 Facebook followers.

The inquest at Antrim Courthouse on Tuesday heard how Miss Boyd’s blood had shown she had 0.06% of the illegal drug etizolam in her system, in contrast to the drug’s therapeutic level of 0.02%. Etizolam is similar to prescription drug diazepam, but much more potent.

It was noted that many individuals who obtain the drug may be told it’s diazepam and it’s primarily used via prescription in China and India.

The court heard how Miss Boyd visited the home of her boyfriend Russell Cummins with her friend Megan Barr, where she proceeded to drink multiple bottles of Buckfast.

Miss Barr said the three of them allegedly smoked cannabis, despite no other drugs being detected in Miss Boyd’s toxicology report. She added that she, Miss Boyd and Mr Cummins snorted lines of white powder, which they believed to be cocaine.

Shortly after Miss Barr left the property on Bushmills Road, Miss Boyd attempted to leave in a taxi, which drove off after claiming she was too intoxicated to travel.

Miss Boyd then fell asleep in the hallway of the property after saying she couldn’t walk up the stairs. Mr Cummins’ mother found her dead in the hallway the next morning.

Pathologist Dr Majorie Turner told the court it was her analysis that the drug, combined with Miss Boyd’s high alcohol blood level, which was recorded as just below twice the legal driving limit in Northern Ireland, led to her death.

Dr Turner said: “The only drug detected by the forensic laboratory was etizolam. It’s a drug used illicitly and is often sold as a Valium or diazepam drug. Its users may not be aware it’s not diazepam, it’s an illicit type of drug.”

She explained that etizolam and alcohol both give similar side effects as they impact the part of the brain which controls breathing.

“The combination of both can be very serious and can cause individuals’ breathing to stop,” she said. Senior coroner Joe McCrisken said Ms Cummins described hearing Miss Boyd “snoring like a champion”, which Dr Turner said those around her may have mistaken for sleeping but that she was actually “becoming progressively unconscious”.

Dr Turner, who previously worked at the University of Glasgow, said the use of etizolam was “uncommon in Northern Ireland”, but she had experienced the damage it can cause due to high usage in Scotland, particularly when combined with alcohol.

Five people have since been reported to the Public Prosecution Service for suspected drugs-related offences as part of the police investigation

Presenting his findings, the coroner told the court: “Miss Boyd was just aged 21 when she died on September 2, she worked in a care home and had a young daughter who is now aged four.

“I am satisfied that on September 1, Miss Boyd travelled to Coleraine with her friend Miss Megan Barr and spoke to her boyfriend Russell Cummins.”

Mr McCrisken said he was satisfied the white powder which Miss Boyd and Miss Barr believed to be cocaine was in fact etizolam, which resulted in her death due to mixed intoxication.

“The white powder was etizolam, not cocaine, and I am satisfied this was in powder form, not tablet form,” he said.

“Miss Boyd did not know the white powder was etizolam and she thought it was cocaine, which sadly in Northern Ireland today is widely used, but if you ask me what is the biggest drug problem, it’s benzodiazepines like these. They are killing people more than any other drugs.

“In my view, if Miss Boyd had just taken alcohol she would not have died, but if she had just taken etizolam she may have died.

“This demonstrates the lack of awareness of these drugs… most of these drugs are manufactured illicitly and moved around the streets. Deaths involving more than one drug is at a rate not seen before.

“These drugs are strong and last a long time. Etizolam has never been tested alongside alcohol, so anyone who mixes these drugs risks death.

“I hope this inquest puts to rest any rumours about Miss Boyd’s death.

“There will be questions that we do not have the answers to, but I hope this inquest has answered some of these questions and provided those who have attended with some answers.”

Mr McCrisken closed the inquest by turning to Miss Boyd’s mother to give his condolences on the death of her daughter.

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