Jail for dealer who peddled ecstasy as girl was dying

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A man who dealt drugs while he knew a 10-year-old girl was seriously ill after taking an overdose of ecstasy at his girlfriend's home was jailed for three and a half years yesterday.

Jade Slack became Britain's youngest ecstasy victim when she died after swallowing five tablets in July last year. She had found 35 pills belonging to Wayne Wood, which were hidden in a cigarette packet behind a teddy bear at the home of Rebecca Hodgson.

Wood, 22, from Galgate, near Lancaster, admitted three counts of supplying the class A drug and one of possession with intent at Manchester Crown Court. He had been peddling ecstasy to finance a trip to Australia.

On Wednesday, Wood and Ms Hodgson, 21, were acquitted of Jade's manslaughter. The jury of five men and seven women decided that the couple had taken reasonable steps to stop Jade getting hold of the drugs. They had not been told that Wood had already admitted dealing in ecstasy before Jade's death, or that he had sold some pills while she lay dying.

Jade and an 11-year-old friend had gone to Ms Hodgson's home, where they were regular visitors, and had been allowed to smoke and drink cans of beer on previous occasions. Ms Hodgson was known by Jade's family and Wood occasionally worked with her father, a milkman.

Wood had phoned Ms Hodgson and told her to move the tablets - which he had accidentally left under the sofa the previous night - to a safer place upstairs.

Jade found the pills while Ms Hodgson was taking a shower. She quickly became ill and her temperature shot up to more than 40C. Instead of calling an ambulance, they placed her under a shower and urged her to drink water, and Wood went to a pub to try to contact Jade's father on a payphone. On his way back, he met some customers, who said Wood seemed like "his normal self", and sold three tablets for £12 from the same batch that Jade found.

It was not until 90 minutes after she swallowed the drugs that the emergency services were called. Jade died at the Lancaster Royal Infirmary about 30 minutes later after suffering cardiac arrest.

Andrew Lawson, for the defence, said Wood was an "ordinary, stupid, misguided young man".

The judge, Mr Justice Morland, questioned how Wood could have continued to sell ecstasy when he knew Jade was seriously ill. "You were prepared to peddle it for profit and finance a trip to Australia, putting your customers and others at risk, people who you have described as friends and acquaintances."

Outside the court, Jade's parents, Beverley and Simon Slack, accompanied by her sister, Zara, 18, expressed little relief at the sentence. "We still believe Jade would be alive today if she had received medical treatment earlier. No sentence will change the fact that we have lost our daughter Jade," they said.