Ryan Browne death: ‘People are popping super-strength ecstasy pills like Smarties’, Fabric chief tells coroner
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A student who overdosed on ecstasy in Farringdon superclub Fabric died after going “blue in the lips” and suffering violent seizures, an inquest heard today.
Ryan Browne, 18, grew frustrated when the two pills he smuggled past security staff in the Charterhouse Street club had no effect. He then bought another pill inside the club, at which point he fell ill and later died in hospital.
The death, on June 25, was one of two that led to Fabric being shut down by Islington Council in September. Jack Crossley, 18, also died of an MDMA overdose in the club on August 6.
Mr Browne, of St Albans, was studying for a diploma in public services management. He had taken ecstasy “four or five times” before. On June 24, he travelled with friend Ryan Locke to buy pills from a dealer outside Luton Sixth Form College.
Another friend, Ben Hole, told Poplar Coroners’ Court today: “We [a group of seven] had tickets booked for Fabric. We knew we were going to pick up ecstasy first, before getting the train to London.
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“There is a link between Fabric and ecstasy. It was always the club where you would take it, because of the music and the surroundings.
“We were searched very briefly: they patted us down and lifted the heels of our shoes. The ecstasy was hidden between our toes in our socks. We all went to the toilets, in separate cubicles. We took one each.
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“I started to feel the effects after 15 minutes. Ryan became frustrated and took another one on the dancefloor. He said he still couldn’t feel it and went to get another one. I saw him with someone near a DJ booth. There was an exchange of some sort.
“This was pretty soon after the second pill. He said he was feeling the effects but didn’t look good. He kept saying he was fine but couldn’t really move. He was struggling to say words. He was taken to a medical tent. The last time I saw him was with his head in his hands.”
Mr Hole, who had known Mr Browne since school, added: “Since Ryan died we all realised how stupid we’d been. We were living in the moment, being idiots. People would be surprised at how many people do actually take drugs.”
Mr Locke, who entered via a separate queue, said of the entry policy: “I was patted down, but not asked to take my shoes off. Some people were asked to take their shoes and socks off. It kind of depended who the bouncer was.”
Esther Finn, a Fabric medic, treated Mr Browne at about 1.45am on June 25. “He was extremely sweaty, very agitated and confused,” she said.
“He didn’t want to come into the room and we had to coax him down. His friend [Mr Locke] kept pulling at me saying he would help him. I had to tell him to leave the room. He didn’t recognise how serious it was.
“Ryan’s lips were blue. I knew something was wrong. Very, very wrong. I listened to his heartbeat, which was very, very fast. He had a seizure, quickly followed by another seizure.”
Mr Browne was taken to the Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, where he died.
Luke Laws, general manager of Fabric, told coroner Mary Hassell door policy has been reviewed before the club appeals Islington Council’s closure decision later this month.
But he claimed there was a wider social issue: “The amount of people who pop pills like Smarties... There’s no one out there saying these kill. The strength of these drugs is rocketing and they are taking a huge risk with their lives if they take them in one go.”
Recording a verdict of MDMA (ecstasy) toxicity, Ms Hassell said: “This was recreational drug use gone wrong. I am convinced that Fabric’s medical care was excellent – and I don’t hear of that very often with nightclubs. The drugs in his system were enough to kill a habituated user, and he was far from habituated.”
Fabric’s appeal case begins at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on November 28.