Shocking photos had global impact

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The Independent Online

The death of Rachel Whitear was used to make an anti-drugs film, entitled Rachel's Story, for secondary school pupils. The 22-minute film, shows how she began as a "beautiful and brilliant" girl who had 10 GCSEs and two A-levels, and excelled at the piano. The climactic scene shows photographs of her bloated and blackened body slumped next to a used syringe in a room in Exmouth, Devon.

The video, funded by the Department of Health, was narrated by her stepfather and mother, Mick and Pauline Holcroft, her older sister, Sarah, and her best friend, Polly North.

The story and images of Rachel Whitear's life have been reported throughout the world - a search of her name on the internet produces more than 800 articles from such far-flung places as Korea, China, the United States, and Brazil. The Daily Mail described the pictures of the dead woman as some of the most shocking photographs that the paper had published. Along with other newspapers they printed the photographs on the front page and said they provided a warning to others of the dangers of heroin abuse.

The decision to release the pictures was praised at the time by the parents of the teenage ecstasy victim Leah Betts. But Roger Howard, chief executive of Drugscope, said: "There is little evidence that such shock tactics actually work in changing behaviour."