Trainee nurse Penny Hargreaves died after taking cocaine laced with horse drug Levamisole
Penny Hargreaves, 21, took the drug without realising it had been contaminated, leading a coroner to blast cocaine use as “an act of crass stupidity”.
The youngster, who had a history of epilepsy, tried the batch after a night out last October.
She did not initially appear to suffer any ill effects afterwards but she was later found dead in bed by her sister.
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The reaction to cocaine is unpredictable
Dr Muamar Al-Mudhaffe
A medical cause of death was given as cocaine use. But Coroner Michael Singleton recorded an open verdict saying death was “unascertained” and could have been caused by Miss Hargreaves having an epileptic fit in her sleep.
During the inquest in Blackburn, the coroner said he was “blown away” by the number of people who took cocaine without knowing what it was made up of.
He said: “It is my fervent hope that out of this tragedy, those other people that were there reflect upon this and learn from it because I do not want to be sat here at another inquest into the death of a young person who has got everything to live for because of an act of crass stupidity.
“Please don’t let Penny Hargreaves have died in vain. Learn from what has happened. This was a very tragic death of a young girl who had her whole life in front of her. Penny had cocaine in her system and had snorted several lines of cocaine.”
He added: “I find it staggering that you would want to do something that potentially is going to kill you.”
Miss Hargreaves had been a nursing student in Leeds, but had returned home to Blackburn.
The student nurse had a history of epilepsy
She had been with friends at the Level One nightclub in Darwen, Lancs, when she agreed to share a bag of cocaine bought for £100 from a local drug dealer.
The group snorted lines from a plate at Miss Hargreaves’s home unaware it had been mixed with Levamisole, which is used to kill parasitic worms in horses and cows.
Her sister, Hannah Hargreaves, a graphic design student, told the inquest: “Penny wasn’t a regular drug user, it was more of an impulse. It wasn’t an addiction, it was recreational.”
Miss Hargreaves did not appear to suffer any ill effects but was found dead the same night
Asked about the last time she saw the trainee nurse, she said: “She was happy and laughing.
“She didn’t seem like she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. She was talking properly.”
The coroner criticised witness Kevin Wilkinson, a friend of the dead woman who bought the drugs, saying: “Are you a pharmacist? No? Then how did you know what you were buying?”
Drug Levamisole is used to kill parasitic worms in horses and cows
Dr Muamar Al-Mudhaffer, a consultant histopathologist, said the cause of death was cocaine use.
He added: “The reaction to cocaine is unpredictable.”
The Hargreaves family declined to comment at the inquest. In a statement at the time of her death they said: “Penny was taken from us due to epilepsy. She has left this life and gone to the next but has left a million raindrops of love.”
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