Brat Camp teenager died from overdose

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The Independent Online

A troubled teenager who appeared on the Channel 4 programme Family Brat Camp to mend his errant ways fell back into drugs and died from an overdose less than three years later, an inquest heard today.

Benjamin Tait had a chequered school career and problems with anger management when he and his parents featured on the reality TV show in late 2006.

But although his family felt he could "turn a corner" at the time, he soon regressed, and died in January after a drug-fuelled evening with a college friend.

The inquest heard Mr Tait, 18, had been forced to leave his home in Oxford following a dispute with a drug-dealer.

After a brief spell living in a hostel in Cambridge, where he was pressured into taking crack cocaine, he moved to Banbury, in Oxfordshire, and started a catering course at Cherwell College.

But his plans went awry on the night of January 7 when he and a close friend, Gareth Alderman, 19, spent an evening together at Mr Alderman's grandfather's house nearby.

The pair, who had bought a bottle of vodka the previous day, went upstairs and Mr Tait began looking for a DVD.

But instead he stumbled upon a bottle of Oramorph - a pain killer which had been used by Mr Alderman's ailing grandmother before her death.

He was unable to resist temptation, a mistake which cost him his life.

"We went upstairs and smoked two or three spliffs then opened the vodka," Mr Alderman, also from Banbury, told the inquest.

"He (Mr Tait) said he didn't drink it straight so I went downstairs and got some Cherryade and came back up."

He said Mr Tait spoke to his mother an hour or so after that, before he came across the painkillers in a wardrobe.

The pair looked for some needles with which to take the drug, before realising it needed to be mixed with a liquid.

"There was a box of morphine," Mr Alderman said. "He (Mr Tait) said, 'have you got any needles?' I said, 'I don't know.'

"We looked through the box and there were no needles.

"Then he looked at the box and he said it had to be mixed with a soft drink."

Using the Cherryade, they knocked back the concoction before falling asleep.

Mr Alderman said the next thing he remembered was waking up.

He broke down in tears as he told the inquest: "I looked at his face and he looked extremely ill. He was blue with sick in his mouth and I just panicked."

An ambulance was called and Mr Tait was taken to Horton Hospital in Banbury where he was later pronounced dead.

A post-mortem showed his brain was "very swollen" and his lungs were "very congested". forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt told the inquest.

He was found to have a fatal amount of morphine in his system.

Recording a verdict of accidental death at Oxfordshire Coroner's Court, in Oxford, coroner Nick Gardiner said: "He (Mr Tait) lost his life but I'm sure he didn't take drugs other than in a careless fashion and that his death can properly be registered as an accident in that he didn't intend the result."

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Tait's uncle, Paul Boyle, from east London, said the inquest had "reopened the heartache" for Mr Tait's parents.

And he said though Jennifer and Matthew Tait had been in daily contact with their son, they had been unable to help him.

"They're absolutely traumatised. Ben died on his sister's birthday. It goes without saying that the entire family is distraught."

He said the teenager had been in trouble since the age of 14 - smoking cannabis, stealing to fund his drug habit and skipping school. He was once arrested for causing damage.

"They were prepared to try anything to help their child," he said. "Appearing on Brat Camp was one of the many things they did as good parents to help their child grow up into a responsible adult."

In their efforts to bring him back on to the straight and narrow, Mr Tait and his parents had taken part in the Channel 4 programme designed to help troubled teenagers mend their ways at a special camp in the United States.

But Mr Tait was unable to shake off his bad habits and in 2007, "happy slappings" of the teenager began to appear on the internet video site YouTube.

The boy went missing for a spell but was later found safe, following a local newspaper campaign and a police search.