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By Kara Lawrence
TWO men died and more became severely ill after a man incited them to take a mixture of two prescription pills, claiming it would give them a “high”, police believe.
The man will next month be called as a “person of interest” at an inquest next month into the deaths of two men in 2004.
Homicide squad detectives believe the man – possibly from Nowra NSW – may be connected to an earlier incident in which a bus passenger became severely ill near Newcastle.
Strike Force Mawarra was set up this April to investigate the deaths of Shaun Bateson, 22, and Brian Hadfield, 29.
Mr Bateson was found unconscious at a boarding lodge in Miranda on May 1, 2004. He was taken to Sutherland Hospital but never regained consciousness and died three days later.
A post-mortem found Mr Bateson had died from “serotonin syndrome” caused by ingesting two anti-depressants: venlafaxine (brand name Effexor) and moclobemide (Aurorix).
On July 15 that year, Brian Hadfield, 29, was staying in a Surry Hills hostel when he became ill, shaking and wild-eyed.
Ambulance officers were called but Mr Hadfield no pulse and could not be revived.
A post-mortem did not find a direct cause of death but toxicology tests found the same two prescription drugs in his system. Neither man was prescribed the drugs.
Police said the “person of interest” had supplied the drugs to the dead men but it was unclear if they had paid for them.
“It appears they’ve been passed on for recreational use. We have no apparent reason as to why, whether he’s being reckless or if he’s getting some sort of kick out of it,” Detective Inspector Bret Coman said.
Detective Sergeant Bryan Parker said police had been told the man may be linked to another incident in which a bus passenger became ill after consuming the same pills.
The incident occurred between August 2000 and July 2002 in Karuah north of Newcastle, on a bus travelling from Nowra to Port Macquarie.
Police are appealing for the victim, or anyone else with information, to come forward as the timeframe made tracing records difficult.
“The bus just pulled over the Karuah area and was met by an ambulance, and we just assume the bus passenger was conveyed to a hospital in the Newcastle area,” Sgt Parker said.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or (02) 9384 or 6103.