Watford man dies after taking 'unusually high-strength' heroin, inquest hears

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Hatfield Coroner's Court

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A 35-year-old man from Watford died after overdosing on an "unusually high strength" heroin the first time he was injected with the drug.

A text message warning of the drug's potency might have changed the course of events leading up to the death of Kristen Johansen, of Strangeways, but it was left unread, the inquest was told.

It also heard the confusion around how Mr Johansen came to be injected with the heroin, as he was right handed and the injection was in his right arm.

Mr Johansen had been drinking with two friends Ben Kempster and Anthony Stilwell on the night of November 5, 2013.

During the evening Mr Kempster purchased £20 worth of heroin and drug paraphernalia and brought it back to Mr Stilwell’s flat in Hudson Close, where the three often met and drank alcohol together.

Deputy Coroner Graham Danbury heard police later discovered a text message on Mr Kempster’s phone from the heroin supplier warning the drugs were more powerful than usual - the message was unread.

Mr Kempster told the court he took the heroin first, that it affected him very quickly and that when he came to his senses sometime later and checked on his friends he found Mr Johansen was white and not breathing.

Deputy Coroner Danbury read a statement Mr Kempster gave to police, it said: "All I did was cook up the heroin, I didn’t give any heroin to Kris."

Mr Kempster said Mr Johansen repeatedly asked for heroin, and he had told his friend of 12 years it was not a good idea for him to inject the drug as he had never done it before.

Answering questions from Mr Johansen’s mother, Mr Kempster said: "I’ll be honest, it was the worst night of my life."

Mr Stilwell said the amount of heroin each of the friends took was very small, but it affected them as if it was £50 worth of the substance.

He said: "I didn’t know it was his first time. It was such a small amount of heroin."

During the inquest, Mr Johansen’s mother said she remembered the day vividly and that she did not hate the witnesses, she only wanted to find out the truth of what happened to her son.

Mr Johansen’s father and sister were also present at the inquest.

A post-mortem concluded Mr Johansen had died from a mix of heroin and alcohol intoxication.

The deputy coroner ruled the cause of death was non-dependent misuse of heroin.

He said: "I don’t think you will ever find you’ll have a clear picture of what happened in Mr Stilwell’s flat that night.

"Kristen Johansen was injected with a quantity of heroin, which appears to have been of unusually high strength.

"Kristen Johansen’s death came about directly from the combination of alcohol and drugs.

"I accept he was not a regular drug user, there is no evidence of previous injection.

"Clearly he had a long standing problem with alcohol.

"But I am satisfied he wasn’t in any sense dependent on heroin."

Comments (4)

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10:05pm Fri 1 Aug 14

G_Whiz says...

Any info on whether Kempster will be charged for supplying Heroin? - or at least questioned as to who his supplier was!
Plenty of excuses coming from him, what about some answers?
Any info on whether Kempster will be charged for supplying Heroin? - or at least questioned as to who his supplier was! Plenty of excuses coming from him, what about some answers? G_Whiz
  • Score: 16

9:58am Mon 4 Aug 14

garston tony says...

Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really
Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really garston tony
  • Score: 4

10:27am Mon 4 Aug 14

Andrew Turpie says...

garston tony wrote:
Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really
I would think even the most pro "recreational substance" user (even the ones I knew in the clubscene back in the 80s and 90s) would say that heroin is a mugs game and distances themselves from anyone and anything to do with it.
[quote][p][bold]garston tony[/bold] wrote: Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really[/p][/quote]I would think even the most pro "recreational substance" user (even the ones I knew in the clubscene back in the 80s and 90s) would say that heroin is a mugs game and distances themselves from anyone and anything to do with it. Andrew Turpie
  • Score: 4

5:14pm Mon 4 Aug 14

Smilingburkinshaw says...

garston tony wrote:
Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really
All I know is that the 'war' on drugs seems to have been lost. So a different approach needs to be looked at surely? Don't know if this is legalising them but maybe if these men could have got them legally the Heroin wouldn't have been 'super strength' and the poor guy would still be alive???
[quote][p][bold]garston tony[/bold] wrote: Its 'funny' (not in the ha ha sense) that often we get pro drug people posting (usually when someone has been busted for possession or supply)about how illegal drugs should be made legal, how they are not bad etc. yet when the story is about someone dying from drug use not a peep from them. Says it all really[/p][/quote]All I know is that the 'war' on drugs seems to have been lost. So a different approach needs to be looked at surely? Don't know if this is legalising them but maybe if these men could have got them legally the Heroin wouldn't have been 'super strength' and the poor guy would still be alive??? Smilingburkinshaw
  • Score: 6

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