Ecstasy blamed for three deaths

The families of three young people were in mourning today after their deaths at New Year parties, all apparent victims of the rave drug, ecstasy.

Two teenage boys and a 24-year-old woman died in three separate incidents at parties to celebrate the arrival of 1997.

In Cardiff, the death of 18-year-old Bilal Hussein Bhayat at a New Year's rave, prompted an outspoken attack on drug dealers by a senior South Wales police officer. Det Chief Supt Phil Jones, head of South Wales CID, said drug-sellers were "totally unscrupulous and uncaring about whether their activities led to someone's death".

Mr Bhayat, from Aston, Birmingham, was among 5,000 revellers at a 12- hour rave at Cardiff International Arena. He died within minutes of collapsing on the dance floor, despite attempts by paramedics to revive him.

Robert Hitchens, 16, is also thought to have taken ecstasy before he collapsed early on New Year's Day at a party at the David Lloyd Sports Centre in Heston, west London. Mr Hitchens, from Upminster, in Essex, was taken to Ealing Hospital where he died that afternoon. A post-mortem examina- tion will be carried out today.

In a third incident, Nicola Edwards, 24, from Middlesbrough, died in police custody after being detained on her way to a rave near Edinburgh.

She was allegedly found with drugs in her possession and detained before falling ill. She died later in Hairmyres hospital, East Kilbride.

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