A Royal Navy veteran has died after drinking a pear drink which police believe drug smugglers may have used to bring cocaine into the country from the Caribbean. Joromie Lewis, 33, of Kings Road, Gosport, Hampshire, became ill immediately after drinking the pear fruit drink, which contained a lethal amount of cocaine.
And now the Food Standards Agency has issued an alert to all local authorities to contact retailers to withdraw any bottles of Pear D from their shelves. Lewis consumed the drink in Southampton on December 5 and died within hours at Southampton General Hospital.
A Hampshire police spokesman said that one of its lines of inquiries was that the drink had been used to smuggle cocaine into the UK in a liquid form.
Lewis' widow, Jayrusha Lewis, said her husband was a "selfless and devoted family man". She said: "Joromie Lewis was a Royal Navy veteran, originally from St Vincent and the Grenadines. "He was a devoted family-oriented man with a selfless attitude to help others, and always knew the right words and advice to give. His exemplary conduct and actions touched the lives and hearts of many.
"He was a member of the Bridgemary Family Church."
A Hampshire Police spokeswoman said: "It appears from police inquiries that Mr Lewis ingested a small amount of liquid in the belief he was drinking a genuine pear drink." A post-mortem examination was carried out on Saturday, December 7. The results are inconclusive and toxicology tests are being carried out.
The spokeswoman continued: "On Wednesday (December 11) police received laboratory test results which showed that the liquid in the juice bottle contained a lethal amount of cocaine. "Police now have established that the bottle of Cole Cold Pear D fruit drink was manufactured in the Caribbean and the company did not export this drink to the UK."
Detective Superintendent Richard Pearson, who is leading the police investigation called Operation Crab, said: "We are working closely with partner agencies, including Southampton's Regulatory Services, Public Health England, the Food Standards Agency and other law enforcement agencies, including the National Crime Agency, to minimise any risk to the public and to investigate the circumstances leading to the tragic death of Mr Lewis.
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"We are supporting his family and linking closely with public health departments. We have taken clear advice from partner agencies and, in light of the analysis of the contents of the bottle, a decision was made to issue the public alert by the Food Standards Agency. Inquiries to date have not identified any further incidents or similar bottles.
"The investigation suggests that this was likely to be a rogue bottle from a consignment of drugs stored in plastic juice bottles. If anyone finds a bottle of Pear D juice, do not open the bottle. If sealed, the bottle is perfectly safe. Take the bottle to the nearest police station, and we will examine the contents if appropriate."
In May 2009, a 63-year-old taxi driver, Lascell Malcolm, from Haringey, north London, died after he drank from a bottle of Bounty Rum which had been used to smuggle cocaine into the country. The father-of-two, who had been given the bottle as a present in lieu of payment from an unknowing friend, died after drinking from the bottle that had been used to smuggle 246g (8.7 oz) of pure cocaine dissolved into the alcohol. Just a teaspoon of the liquid could be fatal.
Drug smuggler Martin Newman of Romford in Essex, aged 50 at the time of his conviction in 2010, was convicted of Mr Malcolm's manslaughter at Croydon Crown Court and sentenced to 20 years to run concurrently with 15 years for the importation of cocaine. Later in 2010, scientists from the Universities of Bradford and Leeds developed a portable laser light, called a Raman, which can detect the presence of cocaine through glass and was hoped could help prevent the drug being smuggled into the country in this manner. Customs officials otherwise have to open bottles to test for cocaine.
Anyone who finds they have a bottle of Pear D should bring it to their local police station and are advised to contact the Food Standards Agency on 020 7276 8448.