Jury told how Leah was `sorted' with fatal tablet

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The Independent Online
Leah Betts was warned about the ecstasy tablet which claimed her life, a court was told yesterday. Her best friend, Sarah Cargill, told Norwich Crown Court she had advised Leah to take only half the tablet.

Ms Cargill, 18, said she was concerned that the tablet was stronger than the ecstasy Leah had experimented with before. But she said Leah swallowed the whole pill and collapsed into a coma three hours later. Leah died after celebrating her 18th birthday at her parent's home in Latchingdon, Essex, in November last year.

The court has been told how she obtained the drug through a network of friends. A jury of six men and six women heard that Stephen Smith, 19, of Basildon, Essex, has admitted being involved in the supply of the drug.But Steven Packman, 18, of Laindon, Essex, denies being involved in the supply of the drug.

The jury was told how Leah and Ms Cargill had decided to buy ecstasy for Leah's birthday party on 11 November. Ms Cargill, of Basildon, Essex, had asked a college friend, Louise Yexley, 18, also of Basildon, if she could help. Ms Yexley had then asked her boyfriend, Mr Smith, who went to a nightclub in Essex with Mr Packman in the hope of finding the drug. He told the jury Mr Packman bought the drug from an unknown dealer at the nightclub, Raquel's, the night before the party was due to take place. Ms Cargill said she and Leah each paid Mr Smith pounds 22.50 for a total of four tablets. She and Leah took them around 8pm at the party on 11 November.

Ms Cargill said that in the past she and Leah had taken tablets with a dove motif on them but the ones Mr Smith brought had an apple motif. Because of that, Ms Cargill said, she advised Leah only to take half a tablet. Leah ignored that advice and Ms Cargill also herself swallowed a whole tablet. Ms Cargill said it did not affect her any differently to previous tablets. Leah was also smoking cannabis at the party, she said.

Ms Cargill said she and Leah started to experiment with drugs in 1995. They began with "things like cannabis", then took whizz, better known as amphetamine. They also tried LSD and on four previous occasions took ecstasy.

The court heard earlier how Leah's father Paul, a former policeman, and stepmother, Janet, a nurse, spent most of the evening in their kitchen while the party was going on.

Late on they had gone to the bedroom to find Leah obviously ill. Before lapsing into a coma, she told them that she had taken an ecstasy tablet which had been supplied to her by Mr Smith.

Ms Cargill told the jury she and Leah had visited Raquel's in the past but stopped after a row with a barmaid. She said she and Leah had previously bought drugs in the club and outside the club. The court heard that Leah, Ms Cargill, Mr Smith and Mr Packman had all attended the same school - St Nicholas in Laindon.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.