Friends of dead youth all took mystery pills

Last updated 05:00 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 coroner's 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 years old when he was found dead at a rural Pahiatua property on 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 found Hemopo had clozapine in his system.

Dr Kirsty Andrews, who conducted the autopsy, told the inquest that clozapine is 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.

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

When the drug was found, Detective Sergeant Grayson Joines was put in charge of an investigation.

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 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 that 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, saying they did not know what was in the pills, and one agreed their actions were like playing russian roulette.

The inquest continues.

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- The Dominion Post

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