Liam Brackell was a brilliant, all-round student - artistic, good at science, with a loving family and a bright future.

But on a sunny Sunday morning two months ago, the 24-year-old Durham University graduate walked to his local railway station and threw himself in front of a high-speed train. He was killed instantly.

Liam was driven to suicide after spending two tortuous years dependent on powerful cocktails of prescription drugs that he was able to buy with ease over the internet.

His doctors said that the huge quantities of painkillers, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs he was sold by websites led to him developing schizophrenia and caused him to take his own life.

His parents are now calling for a government clampdown on the hundreds of websites that sell medical treatments of dubious quality with few regulatory controls. At one point, Liam was receiving 300 antidepressant tablets a day through the post, and by the time of his death had tried 23 different prescription drugs, including powerful antipsychotics, valium and painkillers.

An inquest into his death today is expected to highlight the proliferation of these internet sites. Liam's mother, Sue Brackell, said: "These sites are profiteering from vulnerable people like my son, and no one seems able to do anything about it. They are selling really powerful and lethal drugs as if they are sweets."

She added: "The only anger I feel is towards the websites which preyed on my son. If the Government can clamp down on child pornography on the Net, they should clamp down on these sites too."

Liam studied at the local grammar school near his home in Wanstead, east London, and achieved three As at A-level.

Mrs Bracknell said: "He was just a brilliant all-rounder. He was very artistic and musical, but excelled at maths and science as well. He was a shy boy, but he had friends and was a loving son."

In 2000, Liam went to the University of Durham, where he began experimenting with cannabis and ecstasy.

Mrs Brackell, a music teacher, said: "He and his friends were using the drugs recreationally at weekends, like a lot of students I suppose. I now know that to help with coming down off ecstasy, Liam found an internet site where he could buy antidepressants. By his third year, I think he was doing a lot of drugs, and he seemed very anxious and not right in himself. He got a third-class degree when people had expected him to get a first, and he became very depressed."

When Liam returned to live with his mother, who is separated from his father, in 2001, she discovered his dependencyon prescription drugs. "The post came through one day and there were four plain envelopes, all addressed to him, with no postmark," Mrs Brackell said.

"When he went out I went up to his room to find out what they were. There were lots of tablets taped to pieces of card which had been folded over so you couldn't feel them through the envelope. It was valium. There must have been 300 of them. I just couldn't understand where he had got them."

Liam admitted that he was buying antidepressants and painkillers from foreign websites. For the next two years, his mother tried to persuade him to come off the drugs.

"I felt like the internet was my enemy," she said. Liam had stopped taking the street drugs but he was still using the prescription drugs, and was very unstable. I tried everything.

"I asked the postman to only deliver mail on the first post, so I could intercept it before I went to work. I would go into his room, gather up all the drugs I could find and take them to the police, but they couldn't do anything because these weren't illegal drugs.

"I begged him to stop. He would just say he wanted something that would cure him."

By 2002, Liam was depressed, paranoid and hearing voices. In July, he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for 72 hours after he ran in front of a bus. He was diagnosed with "drug-induced psychosis" but doctors were baffled when they found he only had six codeine painkillers in his system. Pathology reports found that the codeine tablets, bought over the internet, had been cut with morphine.

He was placed in the care of a community mental health team and diagnosed with drug-induced schizophrenia, for which he was prescribed antipsychotic drugs such as olanzapine and amisulpride, as well as the antidepressant Seroxat (paroxetine). But this encouraged him to order more of the same drugs, as well as valium and codeine, from the websites - even the schizophrenia drugs are available at about £60 for an order.

By May this year, Liam had given up work and was dividing his time between his parents' houses. He tried to slash his wrists, attempted to electrocute himself and told his mother he had looked at suicide websites. At 11am on 8 June, he went to Manor Park Tube station near his home and threw himself in front of a high-speed train.

Mrs Brackell said: "Sometimes I think I hear a key in the door and think 'Oh, that's Liam'. I forget he's dead." She added: "These companies are cynically manipulating vulnerable people who are desperate.

"If the Government persist in their refusal to address this problem, lives will continue to be wasted and destroyed by unscrupulous profiteers who are given free rein to peddle and push their drugs, unchecked and uncontrolled over the Net."


With a few clicks of a mouse, anyone can have instant access to hundreds of powerful prescription drugs over the internet.

While many websites operate within the law, others are selling medicines of dubious origin, with few medical checks and little regulation by the authorities.

British-registered websites come under the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. They must have a qualified medical practitioner who assesses and signs off all prescription applications before the drugs are dispatched, and the medicines must come under the usual licensing restrictions.

But the agency has no jurisdiction over the plethora of foreign companies that advertise and sell their wares online.

Sites based in India, Namibia, South America and Hong Kong all sell drugs online that can be posted to the UK.

Some of these sites claim to give their customers an "online consultation" when in fact users are simply going through a process of clicking boxes to obtain their drug of choice.