Harley Girven, 19, could not use his legs and had one properly functioning arm. He died after taking two high-strength MDMA tablets on a night out with friends
A disabled teenager died after he took triple strength ecstasy pills called ‘The Punisher’, named after a popular Netflix programme.
Harley Girven, 19, could not use his legs and had one properly functioning arm and bought three blue high-strength MDMA tablets for £10 on a night out with friends, an inquest into his death heard.
The disabled teenager was deemed ‘vulnerable’ because of his cerebral palsy and felt ‘caged in’ by everyday life unless he was high on ecstasy.
He was discovered dead in his bed after taking two of the pills.
A coroner in Newport said Harley’s actions were ‘reckless’ and issued a warning against using the ‘dangerous’ drug.
Blue Punisher MDMA pills were brought into circulation following the successful Netflix vigilante show called ‘The Punisher’ and bore the skull logo used by the programme’s protagonist, assassin Frank Castle.
Harley was pronounced dead around midday in his flat in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight on June 29, 2019.
His mother, primary school worker Bonnie McBride, said since Harley lost his 20-year-old brother Mikey in a car accident two years ago she feared he would take his own life, and that he had tried to overdose on prescription medicine.
Mrs McBride said: ‘When the police arrived I didn’t even let them in before I insisted they told me what happened. When they said ‘Harley’ I said ‘oh my god, he’s killed himself hasn’t he?’
Blue Punisher MDMA pills were brought into circulation following the successful Netflix vigilante show called ‘The Punisher’ and bore the skull logo used by the programme’s protagonist, assassin Frank Castle
The Netflix Marvel show tells the story of Frank Castle, a fictional character who uses lethal methods to fight crime as the vigilante ‘The Punisher’
‘In a way I think he did, I don’t think he cared whether he would die or not. He was trying to get away from the physical pain and the heartbreak of losing his brother.
‘He loved his family so much.’
She said he suffered added ‘challenges’ growing up due to his cerebral palsy.
She added: ‘Harley had a wonderful personality and would laugh and joke with everyone he met.’
The fatal dose Harley consumed was just the fourth time he tried ecstasy.
The youngster had worried he would never marry and have children.
One friend told the inquest: ‘He said he felt caged in a lot and the only time he was not was when he was on a pill.
‘He was not able get things off his chest but when he was on a pill, he felt happy on a pill.’
His devastated parents said Harley started using cannabis to ease his pain and was still ‘heartbroken’ over the death of his older brother two years before.
Harley was pronounced dead around midday in his flat in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight on June 29, 2019
The inquest heard the night before his death Harley met with friends near his home and asked ‘do you want to get beaned up?’
He asked one to break up a pill for him, but they refused. Moments later Harley had swallowed it.
In a statement the concerned friend said: ‘When I turned around again Harley said ‘I need a drink, that’s left a bad taste in my mouth’ and I said ‘have you taken it? What have you done that for?’ and I called him a dickhead.
‘His jaw was moving as you’d expect, his pupils were dilated, he seemed really happy.’
Just after midnight Harley and two friends returned to his flat, where Harley took another pill and his friends smoked cannabis.
The rise of super-strength ecstasy
Super-strength ecstasy pills have been around for several years due to an increase in the availability of MDMA in Europe.
The usual amount of MDMA – the psychoactive ingredient in ecstasy – is 74 milligrams in a 300 milligram tablet.
However, the newer, high-potency – and professionally produced – tablets can have up to to three times that amount of MDMA – around 240mg.
There has been a surge in ecstasy-related deaths in recent years – coupled with a decrease in the price of the drugs, some of which are illicitly branded with the names of tech firms, such as Netflix and Skype.
In another statement one of his friends said: ‘Harley was sat with his t-shirt off and he said he took a Punisher and was grinning, he was really high’.’
The friend, who did not have concerns for his welfare, carried Harley to bed around 5am and was told ‘I love you’.
The following morning, they presumed Harley was sleeping in, however they were left horrified when they found him unresponsive in bed, with his own vomit and blood around him.
Harley’s father, Robert Girven, said his increased use of cannabis to aid his pain caused him ‘angry outbursts’. The last time he saw him, three days before his death, they laughed and joked together.
Coroner Caroline Sumeray warned against using MDMA.
She said: ‘Harley was only 19. He had some real difficulties in his life and had been challenged by the fact he had cerebral palsy.
‘He was a happy boy until he realised what his future looked like and what he might not be able to achieve and that really affected him.
‘He had dark times. He was reckless, but there were reasons why he took cannabis.’
She said ecstasy was ‘something much more dangerous’.
The coroner added: ‘On this occasion he was reckless and took tablets he should not have taken and they were too much for him and he died.’
Harley was the only one to take ecstasy that night and Mrs Sumeray said his friends did ‘help’ him.
Three young people were investigated by police. One teenage girl at Harley’s flat was released with no further action while one teenage boy, who put him to bed, was given a caution in relation to possessing cannabis but was not charged.
The young man suspected of supplying Harley the drugs was released without further action.
Harley’s mother Mrs McBride said a lack of prosecution was ‘very frustrating’.
Detective Sergeant Lee Torrance accepted it was frustrating but said there was ‘not enough evidence to get it over the finish line’.