Cocaine laced drink imported from the Caribbean blamed for death of Navy veteran
An inquest has been told that a Royal Navy veteran died after drinking a mouthful from a pear drink shipped from the Caribbean that contained cocaine in a concentration at least 20 times the lethal level.
Joromie Lewis, 33, originally from St Vincent and the Grenadines, became ill after trying the drink, which he spat out because of its bitter taste.
Lewis, of Gosport, Hampshire, was working at a food import company when he consumed the drink on December 5 last year and died the same night at the Southampton General Hospital.
The inquest jury heard how tests showed that the drink, called Pear D, contained an "overwhelmingly high" concentration of cocaine.
"Joromie worked for a company which imported food and drink from the Caribbean and distributed them in this country. He was a driver and general assistant working mainly on a part-time basis," said Graham Short, coroner for Central Hampshire.
He said on December 5 last year, Joromie drank from a bottle at his employer's garage where he was unpacking a delivery of drinks. The bottle was labelled Pear D, a form of pear cordial not normally available in this country.
"He took only one mouthful, and he felt it tasted bitter and spat it out. After this, he started to feel unwell and he was taken to hospital by his friends. He died later the same day at Southampton General Hospital.
"Tests of the contents of the bottle showed it had a very high concentration of the drug cocaine in solution," Short said.
Basil Purdue, a Home Office pathologist, said the bottle was part of a consignment of 90 cases imported into the country and that the bottle had tested for dissolved cocaine - a smuggling method for the drug.