Father faces charges after teenager dies at daughter's house party

University lecturer bailed over drugs and child abandonment offences after 15-year-old is killed by suspected overdose
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The parents of a teenager who died of a suspected drugs overdose urged others to learn from the tragedy as mourners gathered to remember her yesterday.

Isobel Reilly, 15, was at a party with other teenagers at a friend's home when she collapsed and stopped breathing after taking drugs believed to have been found in the house. She died in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Police said that Brian Dodgeon, 60, a university academic who had left the teenagers unsupervised in his house, had been arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs as well as child abandonment, but he was released on police bail. Mr Dodgeon's daughter Beatrice Hadjipateras, 14, and two boys of the same age were also taken to hospital and were under observation.

Police sources said they were investigating whether the school children had taken drugs, including Ecstasy and ketamine, found in the house.

Mr Dodgeon's partner, Angela Hadjipateras, was with her daughter in hospital last night. Police officers said they had not ruled out also questioning her on suspicion of child abandonment.

Isobel's parents Patrick Reilly and Lynne Jones said: "Isobel's family and friends are devastated and heartbroken by her untimely death. We hope that if anything positive comes from this dreadful event, it is that others will make the right decisions to be safe and well in the future."

Yesterday nearly 100 friends from Chiswick Community School gathered in a local park for an impromptu memorial. Teenagers wept as they described Isobel as "a vibrant person", an "outgoing soul" and someone who was "always laughing".

Neighbours said that a raucous drunken party had taken place after Mr Dodgeon and Ms Hadjipateras had left their west London home for the night. Some described hearing screams coming from the house at about 4am.

Isobel's friends called the emergency services and she was taken by ambulance to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, but was beyond saving.

Mr Dodgeon, a senior research fellow at the University of London's Institute of Education, whose subjects include health inequalities and alcohol consumption patterns, is due to return for police questioning in June.

Professor Chris Husbands, director of the IoE, said: "My senior team and I will be meeting tomorrow morning – we have a routine, scheduled senior team meeting anyway – to make appropriate decisions on the way we will proceed."

Meanwhile friends left heartfelt messages on a tribute page on the social networking site Facebook. Irina Corcashvilli Vallance wrote: "Issy was a truly beautiful, special person who gave love, laughter and happiness to so many people – she will be deeply missed by everyone. Don't let her tragic death be in vain. Be the best you can for Issy. RIP. xxx."

Lauren Ashcroft wrote: "R.I.P. issy! Such a lovely girl stunning! Loved by many! God only takes the best."

Tony Ryan, headteacher of Chiswick Community School, said: "Isobel was an extremely popular girl at our school and counted many of her fellow pupils as friends. Her tragically early death is devastating news to everyone associated with the school and all our thoughts are with her family at this time."

Ecstasy, or MDMA, came to prominence in the club culture of the late 1980s and was the subject of urgent warnings after the death of Leah Betts not long after her 18th birthday in 1995. The teenager had drunk seven litres of water after taking the designer drug.

It is estimated that there have been around 200 Ecstasy-related deaths since and conviction for possession of the class-A drug can lead to a sentence of up to seven years.

In February 2009, the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended that MDMA be re-classified in the UK from a class-A drug to a class-B drug but the Home Office rejected the recommendation. The council's chairman, Professor David Nutt, was dismissed after questioning government policy, leading to resignations by his team.

Parenting and the law

The question of what is an acceptable age to leave a child, or teenager, home alone is one that plagues every parent at some point. The law is vague enough to offer little more than guidance, leaving much up to a mother or father's judgement.

There is no legal age limit for leaving a child on their own but it is an offence to do so if it places them at risk. Parents can be prosecuted under the Children and Young Persons Act if they leave a child unsupervised "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health".

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children advises that under-12s are rarely mature enough to be left alone, under-16s should not be left overnight, and toddlers and babies should never be unsupervised. The Directgov website recommends that contact numbers are left for children and safety advice given, such what to do in case of fire. It says parents should ensure that dangerous objects and chemicals should be kept out or reach.

Child abandonment for long periods usually leads to a custodial sentence, if a parent is found guilty and deemed to be of sound mind.