Drug smuggler jailed after 'rum' gift killed man

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The Independent Online

A drug smuggler was jailed for 20 years today for the manslaughter of a taxi driver who died after unwittingly drinking pure liquid cocaine from a rum bottle.

Lascell Malcolm, 63, had been given the bottle of Bounty Rum by a friend who had no idea of its lethal contents.

In fact it had been used to smuggle the cocaine into the UK by Martin Newman, who was convicted of manslaughter today by a jury at Croydon Crown Court.

Newman was sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter and 15 years, to run concurrently, for the importation of cocaine.

The jury took just three hours to convict Newman after hearing how he had duped an acquaintance into agreeing to carrying the rum for him.

Mr Malcolm was given the bottle by a friend Antoinette Corlis after refusing to take payment for a lift home after she returned from a Caribbean holiday.

Ms Corlis, who had no idea of the bottle's contents, had in turn been given the rum by Michael Lawrence, who was also unaware of what it contained.

He was carrying it back to the UK from St Lucia for Newman, who was the only one who knew there was 246g (8.7oz) of pure cocaine dissolved into the alcohol, and that just a teaspoon of the liquid could be fatal.

He had given two bottles to Mr Lawrence before flying from St Lucia to Gatwick Airport, claiming his own baggage was overweight.

Newman planned to collect the bottles upon arrival in the UK, but he was detained by Customs officers.

Mr Lawrence waited for Newman for a short while before leaving to catch a connecting flight to his home in Switzerland, giving one of the bottles to Ms Corlis.

She was only to realise the full horror of what she had unwittingly done when she tried to contact Mr Malcolm over the following days.

Mr Malcolm, a father-of-two from Haringey, north London, had drunk a shot of the rum along with a pint of Guinness, hours after Ms Corlis had given him the bottle on May 25 last year.

But at 4am the next day, he called emergency services telling them he could not walk, had a headache and thought he was dying.

He was admitted and discharged from hospital but later collapsed and died in front of his son Richard. He had suffered a heart attack brought on by cocaine poisoning.

The link to the cocaine-laced rum emerged later that day when two friends, visiting Mr Malcolm's house to pay their respects, found the bottle and decided to make a toast.

Both men, Charles Roach and Trevor Tugman, spat out the foul-tasting liquid but were taken to hospital after suffering seizures.