Ceon Broughton filmed Louella Fletcher-Michie, the daughter of Holby City actor John Michie, as she died from the world’s first known fatal overdose of 2C-P at the Bestival music festival in September 2017, the night before her 25th birthday, Winchester Crown Court was told.
The prosecution alleges that Louella was just 400 metres from the festival’s medical tent, but instead of taking effective action to help, the 29-year-old filmed her as she endured a “gradual demise” over several hours, during which she “screamed like a wild animal” before collapsing.
When he gave evidence, John Michie stared at Broughton and said: “I don't know how you could ever say you loved someone if you left them to die in front of you.”
The court also heard that Broughton had been worried about getting in trouble with the police because he already had a suspended prison sentence due to a previous offence.
The jury was told that when a friend told him to call an ambulance, Broughton messaged back “I can’t get bagged [arrested].”
Broughton, of Enfield, north London, however, denies manslaughter and supplying the Class A drug.
He declined to enter the witness box to give evidence in his defence, but in his closing speech to the jurors Broughton’s lawyer Stephen Kamlish QC urged them to examine what happened dispassionately.
If they did that, he suggested, they would come to the conclusion that Broughton acted in the way he did because he thought his girlfriend was just having a bad trip, not dying. The act of filming his girlfriend, Mr Kamlish said, actually showed Broughton’s innocence.
“Any decent person, as Ceon is, once you realise someone is at risk of dying, you are going to stop filming and do something else quickly," he said. “The act of the filming assists you in seeing he didn't realise the seriousness, however stupid that may be. He didn’t mean for Louella either to suffer or die.”
Mr Kamlish added that as Broughton filmed Louella he told her ‘When this is all over, you will want to show it to your mum.’
“That,” said Mr Kamlish, “Is how ironic and tragic this case is."
Referring to the 50-minute video that Broughton took of Louella in the early evening, Mr Kamlish added: “She is still talking and shouting and answering questions, and expressing an opinion - albeit in a repetitive, nonsensical way.
"You can't find that there is a risk of death while she is behaving like that. It's no different, is it, from somebody who has had two drinks too many and starts talking nonsense and shouting."
Mr Kamlish admitted to the jury: You will ask why he filmed and filmed to the end. None of us condone this [but] people who live certain lives spend their lives filming everything they do for the Instagram and the Snapchat.”
"Nobody had ever died from taking 2C-P in the past," Mr Kamlish added. "The prosecution evidence that this is a relatively new drug is wrong. It was invented in 1974 and it has been controlled as a Class A drug for many years in this country. And the fact that nobody has ever died is obviously going to be known to people of the defendant's age and experience.
"He, the experienced drug user, didn't think she was going to die."
Mr Kamlish urged the jurors: “This case is not about morals. It is about criminal responsibility decided on the very stringent basis that you must go through. This is not a case about vengeance, although there is a temptation to think someone needs to pay. It is not about giving the family something to ease their pain. Nothing can or will do that.”
Mr Kamlish added: “The offence of gross negligence manslaughter is unique in UK law. It makes criminals of people, in this case, Ceon, who desired the opposite of the death of the deceased. If you think ‘morally wrong’; ‘he should have done more’ and ‘if he gave the drugs, he should pay’; ‘he should not have been thinking of himself’ … We all think those things, all of us normal people, including Ceon – now, in hindsight.
“But that is not the basis on which you should decide this case, [although] it is tempting to do so.”
The truth, Mr Kamlish said, was that Broughton had “cried quietly throughout this trial”
Broughton entering the witness box, Mr Kamlish insisted, would not have greatly helped the jury in understanding what happened, because they already had a log of all his actions and phone messages.
The lawyer told the jury: “You all feel cheated by him not having got in the witness box. Everyone was waiting for him to tell his side of the story. He could have said, ‘I am sorry’, because in hindsight of course he is sorry. Of course he could have done more. With hindsight, it’s obvious. But this is superficial analysis, because you already know almost everything already.”
Mr Kamlish insisted Broughton had attempted to get help, trying to tell his friend Ezra Campbell, via a mobile with poor signal, where he was, so that the festival’s medics could be sent there.
Such efforts, said Mr Kamlish, were also consistent with someone who believed his girlfriend was having a bad trip but didn’t think she was going to die.
"He sent his google pin [to his friend]. He didn't want to leave her alone in the forest. Just think about that: he didn't think she was going to die.
Admitting to his own lack of drugs experience, Mr Kamlish added: "He didn't want to leave someone having a bad trip. I don't know what that's like. [But] you don't leave them alone in the forest at night until you think there is a risk of dying and the bad trip becomes secondary. You wouldn't leave your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, child, alone in the forest at night on drugs."
Mr Kamlish also disputed whether it had been Broughton who gave Louella the drugs.
Although they were different to the 2C-P that killed her, said Mr Kamlish, Louella had gone to Bestival with her own pills.
He also questioned whether Louella’s brother Sam had misheard when he thought Broughton told him that he had “bumped up” the dose.
Mr Kamlish said that the witnesses had testified that the mobile phone signal was bad: "If there is doubt that Sam heard this incorrectly, you have to acquit Ceon."
The trial continues and the jury is expected to retire to start considering its verdict on Wednesday morning.
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