By Max Daly for VICE. The sudden death of a teenage son is tragedy enough for a family. To see his face used by the media to crank up public fears about the latest “killer drug” only amplifies and elongates the grief, especially if your son’s death has nothing to do with taking drugs.
This is what happened to the family of 18-year-old Ally Calvert, who happened to die in the midst of a summertime media frenzy over nitrous oxide, a relatively harmless drug that newspapers have bizarrely labeled “hippy crack”. Police briefed journalists that Ally – who collapsed after leaving a friend’s birthday party in Bexley, South London in July – had probably died after taking nitrous oxide. The story was plastered over every national newspaper, casting Ally as the latest victim of the new drug scourge.
But as his friends – who set up a Facebook page protesting against the police’s version of events – knew all along, Ally suffered from a rare heart condition, which was later found by a post mortem to be the real cause of his death. Last week, Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe met with and apologised to Ally’s family for the “upset caused by the statements we made about Alistair’s death”.