Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Tragic death prompts mother’s anti-drug plea

The grieving mothers of two Bessbrook men who died from drug overdoses in the past week have made impassioned pleas for people to stay away from drugs.  The distraught mums also urged drug-users to seek help and called for improvements in mental health and addiction services.

Siobhan McCabe’s 34 year old son Aidan was found dead from a suspected overdose in a house in the Acorn Hill area of Bessbrook on Wednesday.  

Police initially treated the father-of-one’s death as murder and arrested six people in relation to the incident.  The three men and three women were later released unconditionally after post-mortem examination results led police to announce Mr McCabe’s death was “no longer being treated as murder. 

Speaking to the Irish News on Thursday,  his heartbroken mother, Siobhan, revealed her son’s battle with drug addiction and said her family have been left “absolutely devastated” by his death.

Siobhan said Aidan had gone “down the wrong path” but that her family had always hoped he would come through his difficulties. 

Still awaiting her son’s toxicology results, after an inconclusive post-mortem, the grieving mum believes that her son “more than likely” died from a drugs overdose, disclosing that he had gone “downhill again” in the last few weeks after appearing to overcome some of his drugs troubles.

Mrs McCabe described Aidan as a “gentle soul” who had “lost his way”, falling in with the “wrong crowd” on his return from a two year stint in Australia.  The Camlough woman said her son had been battling drug abuse for the last “six or seven years” but had been seeking help for his addiction, living in the Praxis unit in Newry for the last eighteen months.

Pleading with other drug users to be aware of the dangers of drug-taking, Mrs McCabe also called for more “drug awareness and education, especially among young people so they know what they’re getting into.”

“It is every parent’s nightmare, every family’s nightmare, I don’t want to see any other family go through what we are going through,” she said.

Tragically, another local family had suffered the same devastation losing their 23-year-old son to a suspected accidental overdose three days before Mr McCabe’s death.  Conor Kearns, originally from Bessbrook, was found dead in his mother’s home in Forkhill on Sunday last (10th March). 

His mother, Sandra Kearns, told the Irish News he had battled drug addiction for the past six years and had suffered 15 accidental overdoses.

Ms Kearns said she took her son “everywhere for help” but that drugs were available around every corner.

She said Conor had progressed to harder substances from smoking cannabis at 17 and she revealed that, tragically, he had left rehab only six days before he died.  The grieving mum said drugs changed her son from “a sweet wee guy into a person I just didn’t recognise.”

Ms Kearns said Conor had been diagnosed with depression and struggled with his mental health, turning to drugs to try to escape his pain and “get out of his reality.”

Echoing Mrs McCabe’s pleas, Sandra urged drugs users to “get help right now”, and warned young people to stay away from them.

“You are only lining someone else’s pocket who doesn’t care about you,” she said, encouraging communities and police to work together and for young people “to be listened to a wee bit more.” 

“They are getting it tough. More help is needed”, she said describing her son’s struggles as a battle “you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”

The heartbroken mum said the loss of her son has devastated her family but said if their warnings and calls for awareness “helps one person then Conor’s death hasn’t been in vain.”

Conor’s older brother Kevin said drugs “destroyed” his little brother but said “he really wanted to get clean.” 

“I think there needs to be a lot more done, more staff and more beds available,” said Mr Kearns.  

“Mental health and addiction go hand in hand but if you go and see addiction services, they are not going to treat your mental health. They refer you to somebody else. I believe it should be joint.”