Bad dope could be killing Alta. inmates

NADIA MOHARIB, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 PM ET

CALGARY -- After three unexplained deaths at Alberta's Drumheller Institution, warnings have been issued to inmates about the possibility of bad drugs being peddled.

Derek Upton, 35, who was serving time for first-degree murder, was found dead in his cell Christmas Eve.

Earlier that day, Nicholas Whynott, convicted of drug-related offences, was found unresponsive in his cell, dying a short time later in hospital.

Autopsies on both men were inconclusive but showed no natural cause of death.

RCMP Cpl. Mike Black said toxicology testing will hopefully offer insight into what led to the deaths as well as the Dec. 12 death of Dang Akays Dang, a 27-year-old convicted of drug-related charges, found unresponsive in his cell.

While foul play has been ruled out in the cases, police said it is possible tainted illicit drugs are to blame and could still pose a risk to others.

"The drug aspect, we are definitely looking into," Black said Thursday. "There could be something floating around.

"There could be a death later on down the road as a result of something taken."

Another inmate became ill about the same time as the two recent deaths, although Black does not know if it is related or not.

Drumheller spokeswoman Dawn Bancroft said ongoing efforts are made to educate inmates about illegal drug use, which is always a concern to officials at the facility about 140 km northeast of Calgary.

In light of the deaths, reviews of procedures are underway to ensure stringent security provisions have been followed and are adequate.

Last year, police laid several dozen drug trafficking charges against inmates while Bancroft said officials seized about $735,000 worth of drugs in 2010, a number that dropped substantially in the past year.

"We are seeing all sorts of drugs, from hash oil to prescription drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, steroids," Black said.

"When you have a lot of time, you drum up ways to get what you want."

Toxicology tests could take six weeks to a few months.

nadia.moharib@sunmedia.ca

@sunnadiamoharib


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