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Taxi driver 'died after drinking rum laced with pure cocaine'

A taxi driver died after unwittingly drinking pure liquid cocaine from a rum bottle given to him as a gift, a court has heard.

Lascell Malcolm, 63, had been handed the bottle of Bounty Rum by a friend, Antoinette Corlis, after refusing to take payment for a lift home after she returned from a Caribbean holiday. She in turn had been given the bottle by a friend, Michael Lawrence, who was carrying it back to the UK from St Lucia for an acquaintance, Martin Newman.

Mr Newman, 50, 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. It was intended that he would collect the bottles upon arrival in the UK, but Mr Newman was detained by Customs officers. Mr Lawrence waited for Mr 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.

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

Oliver Glasgow, for the prosecution, told Croydon Crown Court: "It did not take long for people to identify the defendant's bottle of Bounty Rum as the source of the cocaine poisoning that all three victims had sustained. Subsequent analysis of the contents of the bottle established that 246 grams of cocaine had been dissolved into the rum, which resulted in a mixture of such toxicity that a teaspoonful could kill anyone who consumed it. Had the alcohol and cocaine been separated, the potential wholesale profit that could have resulted from the sale of the cocaine is in the order of £10,000 and the estimated street value of the drugs is around £15,000."

He told the court Mr Newman had a duty of care to anyone who came into contact with the bottles. Mr Newman, from Romford denies manslaughter and importing Class A drugs.