Did British drug death couple die in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ suicide pact? — (Daily Mail)

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Family fear young newlyweds may have killed themselves in despair at India’s grinding poverty  

Daily Mail

PUBLISHED: 09:14 GMT, 23 October 2014


Did British drug death couple die in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ suicide pact? Family fear young newlyweds may have killed themselves in despair at India’s grinding poverty

James and Alex Gaskell found beside wide array of prescription drugs

  • Indian police say teachers, aged 27 and 24, overdosed in locked room
  • Stepfather says couple ‘continually smacked in face’ by India’s poverty
  • Couple, who taught at Manchester International College, wed in November
  • Relatives insisted: ‘This wasn’t two young people on a drug-fuelled trip’
  • Mr Gaskell had been on medication for bouts of depression, they said

Two British newlyweds who died from a suspected drugs overdose in India may have killed themselves in a Romeo and Juliet-style suicide pact, a relative said today.

The bodies of James and Alex Gaskell were found on a hotel bed surrounded by sleeping pills, anti-depressants and empty bottles of cough syrup.

Police say the couple – both teachers with first-class degrees – died of an overdose in their locked room near the Taj Mahal.

A book called The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet, a travel bag, mobile phone and other holiday paraphernalia can also be seen on their double bed.

Mrs Gaskell’s stepfather, Greg Pyke, said the couple may have taken their own lives in despair after being ‘continually smacked in the face’ by the country’s shocking levels of poverty.

In the days before their deaths, he said Mrs Gaskell told how her idealistic view of life in India had been shattered by the reality.

Mr Pyke also described how her husband ‘hated social injustice’ and said he had been ‘quite depressed’ in the run-up to their travels.

Alluding to Romeo and Juliet, the architect told The Times: ‘Something could have triggered James into a bit of a despair and, you know, he does something daft and she follows.

‘They’re both philosophical characters.

‘They were incredibly close and although I would have said Alex was inherently a much stronger personality and more balanced, I could conceive of a situation where, if James could take his life, then Alex could follow him.’

The shocking scene in their hotel room is a stark contrast to the happy image that Mrs Gaskell, 24, had posted a few days earlier of the couple smiling in front of a temple in Delhi.

Her 27-year-old husband had posted a series of messages on Twitter outlining his casual attitude to drugs.

His final tweet, on Sunday, two days before their bodies were found, said how easy they were to obtain in India.

‘Codeine under the counter here. With Valium, Xanax and Lyrica. Winning,’ he wrote. Earlier he said: ‘One prescription in India (after you have told the doctor what to write) will take you faaaaaar…’

In another post he said: ‘I am absolutely off my face on drugs.’

India is a popular destination for drugs tourists keen to acquire powerful prescription medicines from chemists, with few questions asked.

It is unclear whether the couple died from an overdose of prescription drugs or from another substance.

Although Mr Gaskell made no secret of his craving for pills, relatives of his wife insisted yesterday she was anti-drugs.

The couple, who married last November, were found dead in the Hotel Maya in Agra. As well as strips of coloured capsules, police discovered a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug diazepam.

Mr Gaskell was found lying on his side while his wife was slumped in a crouched position. There was evidence in the room that one or both of them had been sick.

Rajesh Gupta, who owns the hotel which is a popular haunt for backpackers, said the couple checked in on Monday night.

He said: ‘Later they ordered the dinner at 9pm and by 10pm our room service went with dinner. He knocked on the door and James Gaskell opened the door and took the dinner – he didn’t allow our employee inside the room and closed the door.

‘They booked only for one night and were supposed to inform us about an extended stay.

‘When they didn’t come down, our hotel staff knocked their door at 11:30 am on Tuesday, but there was no response and door was locked inside. He informed the manager quickly who later informed the police.

‘Later police arrived and found that both were dead on the bed. Both the television and air conditioner were on.