Mother of tragic Vikki demands addicts take drug under supervision

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THE mother of an Edinburgh teenager who was killed after overdosing on methadone sold to her by an addict has called for new laws to get the drug off the streets.

Vikki McGovern was just 19 when she was found dead in the St John's Hill Hostel, Edinburgh, in 2008, after taking a fatal dose of the heroin substitute.

At the High Court in Livingston last week, James Whitson was jailed for ten years after being found guilty of culpable homicide, having supplied Vikki the drug.

The teenager's mother, Pamela Bowmaker, said the sentence should send "a strong message" to anyone selling drugs to vulnerable children. She is now calling on all prescribed methadone to be taken under supervision at a chemist or GPs surgery, to reduce the chance of the drug being sold on.

Ms Bowmaker, 39, said: "The situation at the moment is an absolute disgrace.

"I see it even round the back of my house where these guys are coming out of the chemist, drinking their bottle of methadone and then just throwing the bottle on the ground.

"If this drug is going to be used it needs to be properly supervised, and that means it shouldn't leave the chemists. They should be made to take it inside where they can be watched."

Ms Bowmaker was in court to see Whitson sentenced, but denied reports that their had been a brawl between the two families following the case. She said her only thought had been to ensure justice for her daughter. She said she still struggled to understand what happened to her daughter to cause the decline that would eventually lead to her death.

The former Royal High School and Portobello High pupil had gone to Jewel and Esk Valley College to study for a qualification in nursing, and had been set on a career in medicine.

Her mother said: "She was such a happy girl. She never really argued with me, and while she maybe carried on with her brothers and sisters they were always close. She never took drugs, she never smoked and she didn't even drink. I know it for a fact."

When Vikki was just 17, however, she started to lose her way and began to self-harm. She eventually started seeing a psychiatrist, and moved out to a hostel briefly before returning home.

"She seemed happy again,"said Ms Bowmaker. "Then she was told there was a place for her in the St John's Hill Hostel and she moved out. She was 19, but she was a pretty naive 19-year-old and she was bullied by the druggies and alcoholics they have there. I was worried something would happen."

The trial at the High Court in Livingston heard that Whitson told detectives that Vikki had repeatedly asked for methadone "because she wanted to kill herself".

However, judge Lord Brailsford told him he had taken advantage of "a very vulnerable girl".

Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown said mandatory supervision of addicts taking methadone should be considered.

"We must do everything we can to prevent tragedies such as this happening again and I believe the implementation of supervised methadone consumption would go a long way towards this."

Lothians MSP Dr Ian McKee, however, said the current guidelines were the best way to deal with a difficult problem, and a Scottish Government spokesman insisted it was for individual clinicians following UK-wide agreed prescribing guidelines to decide on the most appropriate treatment.


UK guidelines, which were last reviewed in September 2007, leave the decision on whether an addict can take methadone unsupervised with their GP.

While it is recommended that anyone prescribed methadone should take the drug under supervision for at least the first three months of treatment, this is not a rule.

Following the tragic death of toddler Derek Doran in Tranent, who died after drinking his parents' methadone in 2005, it emerged that more than 700 addicts in the Lothians were using prescribed methadone unsupervised.

And even some of the most unstable addicts are able to take methadone home to cover Sunday doses, when most pharmacies are shut.

The guideline daily dose is between 60 and 120ml but doctors can prescribe as much methadone as they feel is necessary for a patient.