Whitear died of heroin overdose, say police

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The Independent Online

A heroin overdose was to blame for the death of Rachel Whitear, the 21-year-old woman used in a controversial anti-drugs campaign, a new police inquiry has found.

A heroin overdose was to blame for the death of Rachel Whitear, the 21-year-old woman used in a controversial anti-drugs campaign, a new police inquiry has found.

A second investigation was ordered after Ms Whitear's parents criticised the original inquiry and raised concerns that their daughter may have been murdered.

The case gained notoriety when photographs of her bloated body were allowed to be used in an anti-drugs campaign.

Detective Chief Super-intendent Paul Howlett, who is in charge of the new inquiry, said yesterday that there was no evidence of the involvement of a third party. Instead, he said Ms Whitear's death was "heroin-related".

As part of his inquiry the remains of Ms Whitear were exhumed in March and a post-mortem examination carried out. This was not done following the discovery of her body.

New toxicology tests are understood to have found higher levels of heroin than originally detected. Forensic experts believe the fatal overdose occurred because Ms Whitear had stopped taking drugs in the weeks before her death, which resulted in her tolerance level to heroin being greatly reduced. A new inquest is now expected to be ordered.

Ms Whitear's parents have expressed support for the new inquiry being carried out by Wiltshire Constabulary, under the supervision of the independent Police Complaints Commission.

A report on the first inquiry is due in November.