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Police close in on cook of deadly batch of ice

It is a tragic but hardly surprising reality that ice use ruins lives. It is rare, however, that smoking ice kills someone; it is the gradual failure of organs, or the recklessness of those under its influence, that usually gets an ice addict.

More than seven months after Mitchell Saunders, 21,  smoked a poisoned batch of ice – which killed him and left at least four other young men in hospital – police are closing in on the cook.

The dealer who supplied Mitchell the drugs has not told police who manufactured the ice, but detectives recently received the results of forensic samples sent overseas to identify the deadly substance used to cut the drugs.

Michael Saunders had known his son Mitchell was battling addiction.

He said Mitchell’s dealer had operated in plain sight in the East Gippsland town of Paynesville, and the subsequent investigation into his son’s death had confirmed his fears that country police are ill-equipped to tackle the ice scourge.

Mr Saunders fears the lack of resources has been made more acute because regional police are receiving a record amount of drug-related intelligence due to the recent expansion of state government-funded “dob in a dealer” programs.

And he is confounded it took so long to identify which chemical in the cocktail smoked by his son that contributed to his respiratory system failing.

“There’s so much around about how devastating this drug is, and the need for everybody to fight back against it, but when we’ve got a case of it killing someone and putting people in hospital it takes months for anything to happen,” he said.

Police suspect the ice was cooked in a small clandestine laboratory in Melbourne’s outer south-east, as Mitchell’s dealer, and two of the other hospitalised men, had links to that region.

The men were suffering from respiratory failure.

The dealer, who The Age has decided not to name, has been cleared of involvement in manufacturing the batch, as he was one of those hospitalised after smoking it.

He has not been charged with dealing the fatal batch.

The dealer moved to East Gippsland shortly before meeting Mitchell. He had also been an acquaintance of Josh Jell, a Berwick man who was killed in a possibly ice-linked shooting earlier this year.

About $5000 worth of property the dealer took from Mitchell to pay for a drug debt – that belonged to Mr Saunders – was returned last month, weeks after the dealer left town.

Mr Saunders supports the Crime Stoppers  “dob in a dealer” programs, but does not think they go far enough.

While he accepts there is an inherent risk anytime somebody decides to take illicit drugs – and wishes he could have quelled Mitchell’s addiction – he is staggered there are not harsher penalties for those who manufacture or deal drugs laced with poison.

“Dob in a dealer is good start, but why not make it a cash bounty if it results in an arrest?” he said.

Crime Stoppers have unveiled 13 “dob in a dealer” programs across regional Victoria this year, with the first scheme launched in Shepparton in March.

On Tuesday, when the program was introduced in Traralgon, Crime Stoppers reported that community information reports regarding ice had increased four-fold in some areas after the scheme was introduced.

But a regional detective said it was unlikely local officers would investigate information from Crime Stoppers until there were at least two separate reports regarding the same address or person.

A spokesman for The Alfred – which treated several of those who overdosed late last year – said there had not been any other admissions for respiratory failure linked to ice use since then.

But at least two families whose sons were treated at the Alfred, say they were told there had since been similar cases in Victoria and interstate.

Last month, a 58-year-old woman died after injecting ice in Geelong while surrounded by other drug users. Police are investigating the cause of her death.

Anybody with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppers苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛.

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