Friends of dead teen hid pill-taking

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 07:56 18/06/2014

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Friends of a Pahiatua man whose death may have been caused by taking anti-psychosis pills tried to hide their drug use from police by burning the evidence and forging a pact of silence.

At a coronial inquest for Shae Hemopo in Dannevirke yesterday, three people who took the pills with him said they had no idea what they were at the time.

Hemopo was 18 when he was found dead at a rural Pahiatua property on the morning of July 7, 2012.

He had been drinking with the three friends, whose names have been suppressed by Coroner Christopher Devonport, the night before his death.

After one of them procured some pills, they all took half a pill each, and then another half, before going to bed.

Hemopo was found dead by another friend, who also has name suppression, when he came home from a night out in Palmerston North.

An autopsy came back with inconclusive findings, but a toxicology report which came back three months after Hemopo's death showed he had clozapine in his system.

Dr Kirsty Andrews, who conducted the autopsy, told the inquest that clozapine is a drug used to treat people for psychosis.

It was rarely prescribed as it had a long list of side-effects, ranging from nausea to irregular heart rhythms and poor blood pressure, she said.

It was also given in slowly escalating amounts to avoid the side-effects.

She said while it was still impossible to say for certain how Hemopo died, it was likely the clozapine caused a fatal cardiac episode.

The drug was fatal to one of every 3000 people who took it, she said.

When the drug was discovered, Detective Sergeant Grayson Joines was put in charge of an investigation into Hemopo's death.

He told the inquest he had conducted multiple interviews with the three friends who were drinking with Hemopo and the fourth person who found him.

They had kept silent about the pills until one of them confessed in April last year, Joines said.

The confessor, who was also the person who found the pills in a cupboard and presented them to the others, said the three who took the clozapine with Hemopo had agreed they would not talk about the pills to police.

He told Joines in a statement they had burned the pills and the packaging in a fireplace.

Joines said he was "extremely disappointed" they had not been honest from the start, but their actions were not criminal.

All three gave evidence yesterday, and all said they did not know whose idea it was to take the pills.

They all said each person took them of their own free will.

When asked by the coroner if they knew what was in the pill, they all said they did not. One described their actions as being "dumb, young, silly and not thinking", while another agreed it was like playing Russian roulette. "It could have been cyanide," Devonport said.

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The inquest continues today with Hemopo's father, Mark Hemopo, to give evidence.

- Manawatu Standard

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