Burnley tattooist dies after taking ‘designer drug’

A “PASSIONATE” tattooist from Burnley thought he was taking amphetamine, not a new “designer drug”, when he died, an inquest heard.

David Pepper (48), of Godley Street, was pronounced dead at Royal Blackburn Hospital, on January 26th, after being found by his fiancée, Helen Etherington, at home. An inquest was opened and adjourned on January 31st.

Mr Pepper, who had run Tattoos Inc, in Standish Street, for seven years, was an award-winning tattooist, who would sometimes be referred to as Pepp.

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According to the Big Tattoo Planet website, Mr Pepper had a “great attitude towards his chosen profession” and was “passionate to the point of obsession”.

He had been given what he thought to be amphetamine by a friend on January 23rd, and had been taking the drug intermittently ever since. Miss Etherington also admitted to trying the drug at Burnley Magistrates’ Court.

But following toxicology and histology tests, as well as specialist examinations in Manchester, it was in fact “designer drug” benzylpiperazine (BZP) that was found in Mr Pepper’s blood system.

The new recreational drug BZP was described by pathologist Dr Abdul Al-Dawoud as being “like ecstasy”.

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A statement provided by Miss Etherington said Mr Pepper would take amphetamine on a daily basis at the start of their relationship.

But since being diagnosed with high blood pressure, he had decided to cut back on his drug use, and would only take amphetamine every six to eight weeks.

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He had had his last “blow-out” on the weekend of July 14th, and wasn’t expected to take another until the end of February, or the beginning of March.

However, with the arrival of new drugs, Miss Etherington said Mr Pepper couldn’t resist the temptation.

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She said: “It it was there, he would do it, and that is why I was quite annoyed about it.

“I said to him ‘you are going to have to find something else to do, because this is going to kill you’.

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“I did also take some. It didn’t seem the same as what we usually had. I did point this out to him.

“It’s hard to explain. There was something not right about it.

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“As far as we knew it was amphetamine. It was a big shock that it was BZP.

“I just want him back.”

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East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor recorded a verdict of accidental death, stating he did not believe Mr Pepper intended on taking his own life.

He said: “There were prescribed drugs found in David’s system, but these were not the cause of his death.

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“These drugs have been supplied, and these drugs have been used.

“It is likely he had no idea what he was taking.

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“I’ve no hesitation in believing that drug would have ended his life.”