Father of four who died after taking ecstasy was “crying out for help”

Duncan McPhee during rehabilitation in 2016. Picture: Nicola McPhee

Duncan McPhee during rehabilitation in 2016. Picture: Nicola McPhee - Credit: Archant

The family of a much-loved father-of-four who was found dead with ecstasy in his system after finally beating a drug addiction have paid tribute to him as a 'lovely young fellow'.

Duncan McPhee, 32, had been clean of drugs for two months but was discovered dead at home in Hethersett on January 4.

To this day his wife and mother have no idea when he took the drug and suspect it may have been on New Year's Eve.

An inquest into his death heard Mr McPhee's mother had paid for him to attend an eight-week rehabilitation course from October to November 2016. He emerged clean.

'He always wanted to get clean of drugs,' his wife Sylvia Smith told Norfolk Coroner's Court.

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'On January 3 Duncan was complaining about not being able to breathe. This was not unusual because he always had chest infections. He said he felt cold and was shivering.'

He was taken to the GP by his mother and given antibiotics and inhalers, and asked to return in a day or two. He died that night, sleeping with his son and wife.

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He had been taking painkillers for burn injuries to his face and hands suffered in 1993, and diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorder.

He worked with Norfolk Recovery Partnership (NRP) from 2013 until he discharged himself from rehab.

Recovery manager Theresa George told the court: 'Duncan stated some days he could not manage and spent a lot of time crying. He spoke of having an abusive past and anxiety which meant he didn't go out of the house for long periods of time.'

'Friends went round his house to talk him into using drugs. Duncan had self discharged on November 2. He had completed medical detox and was drug free. He had declined any onward referral or support from the local area.'

A post mortem examination showed Mr McPhee had concentrations of diazepam, codeine and zopiclone but not excessive use. MDMA was also found consistent with recreational use.

'MDMA can precipitate cardio-toxicity in patients with an existing heart condition which can also lead to death,' said pathologist Dr Geoff Waters. 'Use of this compound may cause death by various mechanisms.'

Mrs Smith added: 'I have no idea where or when he would have got this drug. As far as I was concerned he was still clean from rehab.'

Senior coroner Jacqueline Lake concluded it was a drug-related death.

'We begged for help'

After the inquest, Mr McPhee's mother, Nicola McPhee, said: 'Duncan was a lovely young fellow. He was caught up in a rat race. He was a very good dad and husband and he loved his children dearly.

'He really tried to get off drugs. It was just so hard for him. He kept it from me for a while. When you are not aware of these things and do not know how to detect them it is difficult. I think people need to be more aware of the symptoms.

'When they [get involved in drugs] they are no longer a part of the family - they are in different groups and get embarrassed at what they are doing. They won't tell their family what is going on until they hit rock bottom.

'We begged for help everywhere. I paid privately in the end because they would not give us a bed. We tried everything. He was so desperate for help. We were told there was only two beds in Norfolk and Suffolk and my son had been fighting since 2013 to get a bed.

'He was crying out for help.'

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