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Leah Betts

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Leah Betts

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1 November 1977 (
Essex England

Paul Betts, Dorothy May Betts

16 November 1995 (aged 18) Great Burstead, England, UK

Rachel Whitear, Anna Wood (born 1980), Debbie Linden

Leah Sarah Betts (1 November 1977 – 16 November 1995) was a schoolgirl from Latchingdon in Essex, England. She is notable for the extensive media coverage that followed her death shortly after her 18th birthday. On 11 November, she took an ecstasy (MDMA) tablet, and then drank approximately 7 litres of water in a 90-minute period. Four hours later, she collapsed into a coma, from which she did not recover.


Leah Betts Government experts poised to downgrade Ecstasy from Class

Death Of Leah Betts

Initial press and public reaction

Leah Betts - News, views, gossip, pictures, video - The Mirror

The press reported that Betts' death was an example of the dangers of illegal drugs in general, and ecstasy in particular.

Leah Betts easy way to die on MDMA Drugs Forum

Her mother, Dorothy May Betts, had died of a heart attack in 1992 at age 45. She lived with her father Paul Betts (a former police officer), her stepmother (a nurse), and her brother William, who was born seven years after her.

Leah Betts PressReader Daily Mail 20170119 21 years apart two girls

The fact that her life reflected so many other middle-class families in Britain likely contributed to the sense of shock around the country after her death. It was suggested that the pill she had taken was from a "contaminated batch". Not long afterward, a 1,500-site poster campaign used a photograph of a smiling Leah Betts (not a picture of her on her deathbed, as some sources erroneously claim) with the caption "Sorted: Just one ecstasy tablet took Leah Betts".

Leah Betts November 13 1995 Leah Betts left in a coma after taking ecstasy

Alternative rock band Chumbawamba responded with their own 'anti-poster' reading "Distorted: you are just as likely to die from eating a bay leaf as from an ecstasy tablet".

Death and inquest

Leah Betts Leah Betts What Caused Her DeathEcstasy VS Water Toxicology

Betts died on the morning of 16 November 1995, within five days of being admitted to hospital, after her life support machine was switched off. Her funeral took place on 1 December 1995 at Christ Church, Latchingdon. She was buried alongside her mother at St Mary Magdalen church in Great Burstead, Essex.

Leah Betts Leah Betts

A subsequent inquest determined that her death was actually not directly due to the consumption of ecstasy, but rather the result of the large quantity of water she had consumed, apparently in observation of an advisory warning commonly given to ravers to drink water to avoid dehydration resulting from the exertion of dancing continuously for hours. Leah had been at home with friends and had not been dancing, yet consumed about 7 litres (12 pints) of water in less than 90 minutes, resulting in water intoxication and hyponatremia, which in turn led to serious swelling of the brain, irreparably damaging it.

May be an image of 2 people and text that says 'inrscience E Leah Betts, a girl that made headlines after dying from taking a single ecstasy pill, didn't die directly from taking the drug. Instead, she died from drinking seven liters of water in 90 minutes, while on ecstasy. The drug causes water retention which makes drinking too much water dangerous.'

However, the ecstasy tablet may have reduced her ability to urinate, exacerbating her hyponatremia; a symptom known as SIADH. At the inquest it was stated by toxicologist John Henry, who had previously warned the public of the danger of MDMA causing death by dehydration, "If Leah had taken the drug alone she might well have survived. If she had drunk the amount of water alone she would have survived."

Police response

Essex Police assigned 35 officers and huge resources to track the suppliers of the tablet Betts had taken, but after an investigation that cost £300,000, the only people charged were four of her friends who had been present at the house, two of whom accepted police cautions with the other two prosecuted. Of these, one received a conditional discharge, while the other was acquitted after a retrial.

Subsequent events

After her death, the media focused on the putative fact that it was the first time she had taken the drug. It arose later — though it was much less publicised — that she had taken the drug at least three times previously. Her father, Paul, subsequently became a vocal public campaigner against drug abuse. He and his wife were present at the press conference at which Barry Legg MP launched his Public Entertainments Licences (Drug Misuse) Bill, which allowed councils to close down licensed venues if the police "believed" controlled drugs were being used "at or near" the premises.

It was reported that the £1m Sorted posters campaign was the pro-bono work of three advertising companies: Booth Lockett and Makin (media buyers), Knight Leech and Delaney (advertising agency), and FFI (youth marketing consultants). Booth Lockett and Makin counted brewers Löwenbräu as one of its major clients, at a time when the alcohol industry saw increasing MDMA use as a threat to profits. The other two companies represented energy drink Red Bull, a professional relationship that had earned Knight Leech and Delaney £5 million and was described by one of FFI's executives who remarked that, "We do PR for Red Bull for example and we do a lot of clubs. It's very popular at the moment because it's a substitute for taking ecstasy."

Ties have been reported between Betts' death and the December 1995 murder of three alleged drug dealers, in Rettendon, an event dubbed the "Range Rover murders".


Leah Betts Wikipedia