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Girl `used as guinea pig in test of lethal heroin'

Two men gave a 16-year-old girl a large dose of pure heroin and then sat back and watched her die, a court was told yesterday.

Lucy Burchell, a bright schoolgirl who fell into a life of cheap drugs and prostitution after watching Band of Gold, a television series about prostitutes, may have been used as a guinea pig to test the strength of the drug.

The prosecution claims that on the night of her death Lucy had gone to Birmingham looking for cannabis, but had instead been given the 80 per cent pure heroin at the flat of one of the defendants. The two men had allegedly then sat back and watched as she died on a bed in the rented house.

John Mitting QC, for the prosecution, told Birmingham Crown Court that he could only suggest motives as to why the pair gave Lucy the drug and then failed to get medical attention which could have saved her life.

Perhaps, he said, the heroin was intended to render her incapable of stopping them doing whatever they wanted to her, or to get her hooked on it, or else they "wanted to test the effects of administering that purity of heroin on her". Mr Mitting added: "Each of them consciously took the decision to not get help for her."

Tahir Khan, 27, of Saltley, and Rungzabe Khan, 25, of Hodge Hill, both in Birmingham, deny murder and the possession and supply of heroin. Tahir Khan also denies unlawful possession of a firearm.

The court heard how Lucy had lived a double life, taking drugs and working as a prostitute in Walsall, but also studying and achieving good grades in her GCSEs, although she died in August last year before the exam results were published.

Under cross-examination, a school friend said that when Lucy first told her of her life as a prostitute, she thought it was a joke. She also told the court of a "Life Plan" Lucy had written about her own future. In it, Lucy said she wanted "to smoke loads of drugs, more and more drugs as time went .

Later, she revealed she had become a prostitute. "She told me she had thought about trying to do it after watching Band of Gold. She used to watch that a lot and thought it would be a good idea," said the friend.

Lucy was last seen near herhome in Great Wyrley, near Cannock, Staffordshire, on 15 August last year. Her decomposed body was found five days later by two schoolboys, dumped on wasteground behind a Birmingham nightclub. Police identified her after matching her clothing with a missing-person report filed by her parents.

She had been seen the previous night climbing into a red car which matched the description of Rungzabe Khan's vehicle.

The men allegedly borrowed a van and, after wrapping her body in a blanket, drove to the wasteland where the body was found.