Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Tragic mum Carissa Smith third to overdose in Canterbury's city centre public toilets

A jailed drug addict has told an inquest how he scored heroin and cocaine in the city centre – which later led to the tragic death of a 33-year-old mother in public toilets.

Carissa Smith asked Alex Bull, 34, to get her the drugs, saying she was having a terrible day and “deserved a treat”.

But almost immediately after injecting herself with the substances in a cubicle in the Canterbury Lane toilets, she collapsed and became lifeless.

Carissa Smith died after injecting heroin
Carissa Smith died after injecting heroin

An ambulance was called and she was taken to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital but died two hours later, despite the efforts of medics to save her.

The tragedy happened on September 13 last year and the inquest shone a light on the hard drugs problem in Canterbury.

In the same toilets almost a year earlier, Emma Slater was found dead from a heroin overdose and, in 2010, drug user Stefan Pursell also died there.

The inquest heard that, just the day before Carissa’s death, a friend Michelle Pollard, suffered a collapse from a heroin overdose in the city centre and had to be taken away in an ambulance.

Bull, who was a client of the charity Porchlight, was arrested soon after Carissa died after a police investigation but denied actually injecting her.

He was charged with supplying a class A drug, which he admitted, and was jailed last month for 14 months.

The scene of of the death at public toilets in Canterbury Lane. Stock image
The scene of of the death at public toilets in Canterbury Lane. Stock image

Speaking from the dock, Bull told the hearing that Carissa, 33, who lived in Upstreet, had asked him to get the drugs for her and gave him the money.

He said he met a dealer near the Westgate Gardens and “scored” two £10 bags, which they then took into the toilets shortly after midnight to share.

He said: “I brewed it up and she had her own needle and injected herself in the groin. She was sat on the toilet seat but then slumped forward. Her lips were blue and straight away I knew she had overdosed.

“I opened the cubicle door and laid her down on her back. I was panicking and went outside and shouted for someone to call an ambulance.”

A post mortem later revealed Carissa had died from a cocktail of drink and drugs, including a fatal level of morphine.

But her family questioned Bull’s evidence after paramedics said they found a syringe in her sleeve when they removed her clothing while trying to resuscitate her.

They queried why the pathologist had only recorded puncture marks in her arms and not her groin. But Bull continued to insist he had not injected her.

Alex Bull who was convicted of supplying the heroin which killed Carissa Smith
Alex Bull who was convicted of supplying the heroin which killed Carissa Smith

Coroner James Dillon heard that Carissa came from a very supportive family and had a 13-year-old daughter.

Her father, Desmond Smith, of Maybrook Lane, Broad Oak, said: “We last saw her on the Tuesday before she died and she was in a good frame of mind and seemed to be getting better.”

Recording her death was drug related, Mr Dillon said: “I can’t answer the family’s lingering doubts about the administering of the drug but on the evidence and balance of probabilities it was consensual.

“She had been engaging with substance abuse services and there is no implication of suicidal intent.”

After the inquest, Carissa’s partner, Bruis de Faoite, spoke of the family’s devastation at her death.

The former airman, who was invalided out of the RAF, said they had first met as close neighbours in St Mary’s Gardens, Upstreet.

He said: “We became best friends. I was also volunteering with the Kent Council on Addiction and helping to sort her life out.

“We were encouraged by her recent improvement and progress in courageously fighting the long battle with her addictions, with the help of Turning Point and NHS Bridge House detox unit.

“She was also attending Alcoholics Anonymous four or five times a week.

“Carissa was fun, kind and caring and enjoyed working on our allotment and regularly gave away vegetables to people on our street. She also visited elderly neighbours to see if they were OK.

Carissa Smith's partner Bruis de Faoite
Carissa Smith's partner Bruis de Faoite

“She was also an animal lover and volunteered for the TAG shop in Birchington. We believed she had stopped mixing with certain drug users in the city and had not injected herself since 2012.

“But her death shows just how dangerous this addiction is and the scale of the drug problem in Canterbury.”

The police district commander for Canterbury, Chief Inspector Mitchell Fox, said: “One drugs-related death is one too many and my officers continue to work hard to get drugs off our streets.

“Through the community safety unit, we work with those who support people suffering from drug addiction or are considered vulnerable to the risks of drug use.

“Educating those on the dangers of drug taking is also carried out.

“Where information about drugs-related activity in specific areas is received, warrants and stop and searches are carried out regularly in Canterbury and the coastal areas.

“Officers work to detect and deter drug dealers in order to bring them to court and we would urge those who believe there is drug-related activity in their street to continue to report any suspicious behaviour and help to keep Canterbury a safe place.”

City council spokesman Celia Glynn-Williams added that closing the toilets at night would not help because drug-users would go elsewhere and it could cause a problem with people urinating in the street.

She added: “Public toilets are inspected regularly throughout the day and any misuse reported.

“The evidence we are seeing points to a reduction in hard drugs use because our street cleaners are reporting fewer discarded needles and less in the sharps containers.

“We are also working with partner agencies in the education and prevention of drug misuse.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More