Friends tell how ecstasy victim fell violently ill

A student died with a look of "sheer fright" on her face after taking an unusually high-strength ecstasy tablet, an inquest has been told.

Paramedics who tried to save 19-year-old Lorna Spinks said her eyes were wide open and her tongue was sticking out as they took her to hospital.

Miss Spinks, who was studying sociology at Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge, died in May, 36 hours after taking a lime green ecstasy tablet that was about one and a half times the usual strength at the Junction nightclub in the city.

Alan Futter, an ambulanceman, told David Morris, the coroner: "It's the first time I've seen it like that to be honest. I have seen people frightened before but not like that."

By the time Miss Spinks arrived at Addenbrooke's Hospital she had a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius (109.4F) – the normal level is 37C (98.4F).

Janice Boyle, a nurse, said: "I have never actually seen anyone with a temperature that high before."

Ian McKenzie, a hospital consultant, said the drug had thinned Miss Spinks' blood so that she was bleeding profusely internally and externally. "Eventually her lungs and heart failed and she died," he said. "She was extremely rigid. Both her upper and lower limbs were extended and shaking. She was covered in sweat.

"Her blood was not clotting at all. It was almost as if she had water running through her veins. She was bleeding through every needle puncture. For a good 12 to 15 hours we struggled extremely hard to try to correct this clotting abnormality."

Miss Spinks, who grew up in a French village near Geneva, was an experienced ecstasy user, the inquest was told. Her friends told of their distress as they realised that the drug was taking such a severe effect. Dan Edwards, a fellow student, said: "I saw Lorna come towards me. She gave me a hug. Her skin was so hot all over. Her words were not coming out correctly. They were backwards or gibberish."

He said: "I didn't really know what to do. I heard her say 'sick' at one point so I decided to take her to the toilets to try and cool her down. She was losing all sense of balance. I physically had to hold her to take her to the toilets."

Mr Edwards said security staff at the nightclub called an ambulance and Miss Spinks was taken away. "Lorna was squirming so violently they had to strap her down. She was also foaming at the mouth."

Miss Spinks' parents, Alan and Elizabeth, did not attend the inquest in Cambridge but released a photograph of their daughter's corpse in the hope that it would deter others from taking the drug.

The couple, who live near Geneva, had discussed drugs with their daughter from the age of 13, Mr Spinks revealed. "Lorna was actually blessed with rather more common sense than many others," he said. "She was very well aware of the risks of taking ecstasy."

Mr Morris recorded a verdict of death of misadventure and said of the ecstasy tablet: "The effects were horrific. It was not a nice way to die. A young lady with a great future ahead of her wasted away on a dramatic night out because of this ecstasy tablet.

"And it seems this could have happened with any sort of ecstasy tablet at any time. Every time anyone takes one they must know the risks."