A HEARTBROKEN mother who blames so-called “legal highs” for the death of her son has launched a campaign against shops that sell the toxic substances in Britain.
Donegal native Karen Audino has released shocking images of her tragic son Jimmy Guichard just hours before his life support machine was turned off in a British hospital.
The grief-stricken 42-year-old hopes it will serve as a warning to others about the dangers of legal drugs available on Britain’s high streets.
“Some parents might not agree with what I have done, but if it means they do not hold their son in their arms while he dies, then I think it has been worthwhile,” she told The Irish Post.
Hurling-mad Jimmy suffered a heart attack and severe brain damage in Kent last month.
The 20-year-old recently moved to Britain to care for his cancer-stricken father. Ms Audino said he was found unconscious next to the empty plastic bag of a legal high substance.
Just 24 hours later, on October 2 she had to make the “impossible” decision of turning off his life-support machine.
“Jimmy was fit and healthy, the doctors said his organs were perfect,” Ms Audino told The Irish Post. “‘I believe what he smoked caused this and I want those shops banned, so nobody else has to go through this pain.”
Now the Letterkenny woman is calling on British MPs to catch up with their Irish peers by outlawing legal highs.
“It did not even occur to me that these things were still legal over here,” she said. “Normally in Ireland we are 10 years behind everyone else and everything goes at such a slower pace.
“But they are three years ahead of England in this because they have gotten the law changed.”
The Irish Government outlawed legal highs in 2010. The now-prohibited substances include herbs used as an alternative to cannabis, which are still sold in Britain.
One major chain selling such herbs over here states that they are “not for human consumption”, but sells them in packages describing their contents as a “legal intoxicating smoking mixture”.
Although Jimmy would still have been able to acquire dangerous substances online, Ms Audino believes he would not have taken the substance that killed him if it was not available on the high street.
The results of chemical tests performed during the young man’s post-mortem are not expected to be returned for another month.
A national newspaper is among media outlets which have been threatened with legal action for associating the death of tragic Jimmy Guichard with a high street company selling so called ‘legal highs’.
UK Skunkworks, which advises customers not to consume its products because of the dangers involved, told The Irish Post it is logging all news reports and social media comments linking it to the death.
The Daily Mail was among the newspapers which claimed that the opened packet, thought to contain a legal drug, found beside the unconscious body of tragic Jimmy was bought from the company.
But a spokesperson told The Irish Post that no evidence suggests this is true. “Where they have said that it is a clear plastic bag labelled with UK Skunkworks, we are in the process of getting a defamation case together because we do not sell anything that is branded (with our name),” he added.
The company says it has gone through several days’ worth of CCTV evidence from its two shops nearest to where Jimmy died, but has not found “a single bit of evidence” that he purchased a legal high substance from UK Skunkworks.
UK Skunkworks sells legal cannabis substitutes such as ‘Amsterdam Gold Smoking Mix’, which is illegal in Ireland, as a herbal incense.
But it advises customers that the product is “not for human consumption”. They claim to turn away anyone who suggests in-store that they plan to consume the products.