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Inquest begins into man who died of MDMA overdose at Tunbridge Wells sex festival

Police investigating the death of an ecstasy user at a Tunbridge Wells sex festival discovered widespread evidence of drug taking where it was held, a coroner heard.

Steven Graves, 53, was found dead at Brokes Wood in High Brooms on August 22 at the end of Flamefest, having taken a fatal dose of MDMA.

The dad-of-one was discovered early that morning unresponsive, lying outside his tent under a duvet with a woman unconscious on his lap.

Police search the area in Brokes Wood
Police search the area in Brokes Wood

Attempts to revive him failed and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

The woman, named as Sandra Levy, was taken to a hospital, but later recovered.

Today an inquest heard evidence from witnesses and Jim Farley, a police sergeant, how in the run-up to the death Mr Graves was thought to have taken a cocktail of illicit substances with Ms Levy, with whom he had grown intimate during the festival.

The hearing, at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, was told the unemployed technical illustrator from West Byfleet, Surrey had been made redundant in May and lost his partner the previous year.

Mr Graves, who had no recent convictions, arrived at Flamefest on Friday afternoon and camped in a tent in the public area. There were about 250 other people present.

Jim Farley, detective sergeant at Tonbridge Police Station, said a tobacco tin belonging to Ms Levy containing cannabis and a white crystalline substance later identified as mephedrone was found nearby.

He said a wider examination of the site revealed significant evidence of widespread drug use, mirrors covered with white powder while sniffer dogs identified a number of sites were substances had been used.

“I am satisfied any intoxicants consumed by him were done voluntarily and no third party was involved in his death,” he said.

In a statement, Ms Levy said the night before the death they had taken multiple drugs including cannabis and mephedrone. Mr Graves had drank four cans of beer.

She said they were approached by a man they did not know who sold them a pill each. She described her legs feeling shaky afterwards and the pair both took GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy and fell asleep.

They were found by volunteer steward Daniel Newcombe who heard them snoring when he covered them with a duvet.

When he checked on them again at 6am he found Mr Graves lips were blue.

A postmortem found 1.9mg of MDMA per litre of blood.

Geoffrey Smith, an assistant coroner, concluded the death to be drugs related.

Police carrying out enquiries at the scene
Police carrying out enquiries at the scene

He said: “It is plain to me and I find on balance from the evidence which I have heard that the deceased died from ingesting a lethal dose of MDMA and that was the reason for his death.”

A man in his 20s was arrested on suspicion of possession of class A drugs. He was released and remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the festival organisers issued a statement saying: "The entire Flamefest team have been deeply saddened by the tragic incident that occurred after Flamefest '17, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Steven Graves.

"At Flamefest we work hard to make the festival environment as safe and as fun as possible.

"We already have a rigorous drugs policy and have hired a new security team for next year’s festival.

"We will be looking at the coroner's report as we consider any further changes we are able make to improve any aspect of safety at our festival."

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