British Rugby Players Who Died In Sri Lanka Didn’t Mean to Buy Heroin, Inquest Says

By Kelly Burch 10/10/19

Authorities say the players had no knowledge that the drug they purchased was heroin.

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Two British rugby players who died of heroin overdoses while in Sri Lanka, apparently did not understand what they were getting when they purchased drugs from a local, an inquest has found. 

The men, Thomas Howard and Thomas Baty, were coming home from a night of partying following a rugby match when they apparently purchased drugs from a local at the suggestion of their tuk-tuk driver, according to The Guardian.

They bought the drugs in the early morning of May 13, 2018, while they were on their way home from a nightclub. Teammates later reported that they seemed drunk and were stumbling. The next morning, the two men were found unresponsive in their hotel room. 

Cause Of Death

An investigation found that it was “highly likely” that the men died of “opiate toxicity.”

Initially, Sri Lankan authorities said that the men asked the tuk-tuk driver for heroin. However, the British coroner said that there were inconsistencies in the investigation conducted by the local authorities. The coroner, Crispin Oliver, said that the local investigation “did not sit right.” 

After working with British police on a separate investigation, Oliver concluded that Howard and Baty wouldn’t have known that they were purchasing heroin. 

“They had no prior knowledge of this substance. They would not have known that it was heroin,” he said. “I am satisfied that these were not drug users, I think this was a one-off occasion, it was certainly a mistake and it was certainly an accident.”

That sentiment was echoed by Durham police officer Phil McElhone, who said Howard and Baty were "not two lads who were habitual drug users. They were not in that circle at all.”

Warning To People Who Travel

Howard and Baty apparently took “brown sugar,” a local version of heroin that is cheaper. Oliver said that their deaths should serve as a warning to people who are considering taking drugs when they are overseas. 

“I hope this serves as a warning to people when they travel to far parts of the world that they have to be very careful about what they are encouraged to purchase and take,” he said. 

Oliver added that the deaths were a "genuine tragedy,” according to the BBC. 

McElhone said that the man who sold Howard and Baty the drugs was named in court, but that he had not faced any charges in connection with their deaths. The dealer "seems to be forgotten about,” he said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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