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Family's agony Parents praise women who tried to save son's life after he took 'hippy crack'

I was so thankful to that poor woman. She was sitting in front of us, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.


Grieving parents Aine Ryan and Mick Morrisey holding a photo of their late son Alex.

Grieving parents Aine Ryan and Mick Morrisey holding a photo of their late son Alex.

Grieving parents Aine Ryan and Mick Morrisey holding a photo of their late son Alex.

Tragic hippy crack victim Alex Ryan Morrissey’s horrified parents discovered for the first time this week how a woman desperately tried to save their son’s life after finding him semi-conscious on her garden wall.

A coroner ruled that the 15-year-old died of “toxic poisoning” and while “minute traces of MDMA” were found in his system his father insists it was not enough to kill him and that nitrous oxide was responsible for his son’s death.

Brave Mick Morrissey fought back the tears as he told the Sunday World how he and his devoted wife Aine had to sit through two hours of harrowing testimony on his son’s last moments.

Alex, from Cushlawn, Tallaght, died on May 20 last year after he was found slumped over a wall in Ballycullen, south Dublin, having earlier taken nitrous oxide.


Nitrous oxide canisters are being widely used to get high.

Nitrous oxide canisters are being widely used to get high.

Nitrous oxide canisters are being widely used to get high.

Mick has pleaded with Drugs Minister Frank Feighan to clamp down on the deadly substance, which is commonly known as laughing gas or ‘silver’ or ‘purple bullets’ and can be purchased from as little as €2 to €5 a canister.

“I felt 100 times worse when I came out of it,” recalls Mick about the inquest. “We got the Luas home and we were walking up the road and saw these things (canisters) all over the road.”

He adds that Aine was in tears from the beginning until the end of the inquest.

“I felt sick sitting there listening to the last two hours of his life and then to hear the account of the woman who found him,” explains Mick.

“That woman was there and my heart went out to her when she was talking about what she found.

“She came back in her car, reversed into her driveway and found Alex sitting on her garden wall. She said that when she first saw him she knew herself he was in danger, that she could see it in his face, the look on his face.

“She got a neighbour to help her and she said they asked him his name and where he lived. She said they couldn’t make head nor tail of what he was trying to say, that he was sitting there and he was sweating profusely, that his eyes were rolling around in his head.

“They were trying to get something out of him and all they were getting was ‘Cushlawn, Cushlawn’ and couldn’t make sense of anything else he was saying. This was at twenty-past-eight in the evening, in May, when it was bright.”

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The two women managed to get Alex off the wall and put him sitting on the ground with his back against it.

“Then he said he was freezing, so they went in and got two blankets and wrapped them around him,” adds Mick.

“The ambulance came along and one of the neighbours helped get him on to the stretcher, as he was throwing his arms and legs out, as he was confused, not knowing what was happening.”

When Alex did not return home Mick frantically rang his son’s friends and found out the schoolboy had left his phone in a mate’s bag after going swimming with him.

A mother of his son’s pal brought the phone to Mick, who eventually contacted the gardaí at around midnight.

“When I rang Tallaght police station, they said ‘we are sending a car to collect you,’” he says. “I would say he was dead by around 8.30pm.”

His heart goes out to the woman who found his dying son.

“I was so thankful to that poor woman,” he says. “She was sitting in front of us, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.

“I was telling her, ‘it’s not your fault love, you did all you could for him’.”

He notes that the coroner could not give an exact cause of death.

“She said; ‘I can’t say this is what happened to Alex, I can’t be 100% certain if that was responsible’.

“So she wasn’t going to rule anything out or in, and that was it, the case was over,” he points out.

“But she did say that this stuff (nitrous oxide) was highly dangerous and that kids don’t know what they’re putting into themselves.”

He adds: “She said that it was toxic poisoning and there were no other major drugs or alcohol in his system.

“She could not determine what killed him and it was ruled as death by misadventure.”

Mick maintains the MDMA could have been in Alex’s system from days earlier and is convinced it was the nitrous oxide which was responsible for his death.

“There had also been claims he had been drinking, that he took 12 cans of beer, but there was no alcohol found in his system, so I don’t know where that came from,” he says.

Mick is determined that Alex’s death is not in vain.

“I don’t want this happening to any other parents’ son or daughter,” he insists. “I’m going to keep going until this stuff is taken off the streets.”

The possession of nitrous oxide could soon be criminalised in the UK after

British Home Secretary Priti Patel warned she was prepared to “take tough action” on its use among young people. She has asked the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)to review the effects of laughing gas, which is mostly taken through balloons filled from small metal cylinders.

In Britain it is believed that more than half a million 16- to 24-year-olds – almost one in 10 – reported taking nitrous oxide in 2019-2020.

The gas is often taken at nightclubs and music festivals and they apparently give a ‘buzz’ lasting around 30 seconds.

The Sunday World was previously able to buy several canisters online as they are used in the catering trade, usually to create foam in soup, sauces and desserts. They are also used in dentistry and medicine, as well as for pumping up bicycle tyres.

When inhaled, nitrous oxide can make people feel euphoric and relaxed. It can cause some people to have hallucinations but the drug can slow down the brain and can cause serious injury and even death.

“I am hoping the Irish Government follow plans by the English government to ban this stuff,” says Mick.

“She [Patel] wants it that they’re not available to the general public.

“It’s so easy to get them. I walked down the road a couple of days ago and myself and my wife picked one off the road.

“We even found one left standing up on our garden wall a few Sundays ago where I was going out to get the paper. We don’t know whether someone left it there to torment us or who knows what they were thinking.

“But it’s like talking to the wall, they don’t care. It’s like we are second-class citizens. If you live in Foxrock or Cabinteely or somewhere like that and this happened, they might do something about it.”

In June, Drugs Minister Frank Feighan told the Sunday World that he is in touch with European authorities about restricting the sale of the substance to the general public.

“Things have to be done,” says Mick, who has six other children. “Is nobody going to say anything, or is it going to be just pushed behind closed doors and nobody going to open their mouth about it?

“If it was a Minister’s child or in a Minister’s constituency then something would be done about it.”

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