Death-leap partygoer had taken ecstasy

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As the Government unveiled its latest, most radical, initiative to combat drug abuse, inquest juries were told yesterday of two tragic drug-related deaths.

Cheshire coroner John Hibbert heard that 18-year-old Paul Thomas, a former student, killed himself because he was frightened of a drug dealer who was demanding money from him. He was found dead in a fume-filled car near his home in Middlewich, Cheshire, three weeks before Christmas.

His mother Lyn, 36, said her son had paid a pounds 1,000 debt to a local drugs dealer three days before he died. But his friends had told her the man had demanded more money.

Southwark Coroner's Court, meanwhile, heard that the son of a leading government education adviser, who died after leaping off a 100ft building, was high on a drug cocktail of cannabis and ecstasy.

Alex Balchin, 21, spoke of wanting to make the world more beautiful seconds before jumping from the roof of the County Hall annex in central London where a rave party was in progress. A verdict of misadventure was recorded.

His father, Sir Robert Balchin, who is chairman of the Grant Maintained Schools Foundation, told the inquest that as far as he knew his son had never been involved in drugs. "Alex was very fun-loving. He brought a lot of joy to us, to his friends and those who he knew. That was absolutely clear while he was alive and is clear since his death."

Sir Robert said the last time he had seen his son was a fortnight before his death on 1 December last year. He had been due to take up a place at Sussex University this year.

The court was told that the rave, attended by about 2,000 people, had been organised as a farewell party by squatters who had been evicted.

A friend, Gary Bunch, told the court that he met Mr Balchin on the stairwell to the roof and he seemed slightly agitated. "He looked like he was on drugs. It is difficult to say what he was on.

"Once up on the roof Alex looked over the edge and said: `I want the world to be more beautiful. What have we done?'

"He was unsteady, he was looking out at the view. His eyes were bulging straight out of his head and he was looking very pale." Mr Bunch added that he shouted at Mr Balchin to stop when he jumped on to a wall by the edge of the roof. "I asked him if he would like to come and sit inside. He shook his head and leapt."

Although a post-mortem examination revealed traces of the drugs in blood and urine samples, Mr Balchin's death was due to severe head injuries consistent with a fall from a considerable height.

The coroner, Sir Montague Levine, described the party as drug-infested. "The worst aspect was the drugs. There was reason to believe all sorts of drugs were picked up. Sadly Alex had taken some ecstasy and some cannabis. There is nothing to indicate the drug itself killed him but there is ample evidence that ecstasy accounted for his strange and bizarre behaviour."