Legal high killed tragic Scarborough teenager

Zack Shelbourn
Zack Shelbourn

A coroner warned of the dangers of former legal highs after hearing a Scarborough teenager died after smoking a substance called Pandora’s Box.

An inquest heard 19-year-old Zack Shelbourn died from poisoning after smoking the synthetic cannabinoid powder at his friend Samuel Hitchens’ flat in Carlton Hill, Leeds, in January - four months before the substances were outlawed.

Samuel Hitchens said he bought the one gramme bag of Pandora’s Box for £7 from a man on Vicar Lane after he and Mr Shelbourn, of High Garth, Eastfield, Scarborough, went to Leeds city centre just before 7pm on January 16.

The two men smoked the powder before Mr Hitchens fell asleep. He woke at around 1pm the following day to find Mr Shelbourn in an unresponsive state.

Mr Hitchens said he tried to revive his friend and called for an ambulance. Paramedics arrived and continued attempts to revive Mr Shelbourn, who was pronounced dead at the flat.

Dr Leslie Davidson, a consultant histopathologist at St James Hospital, Leeds, said toxicology tests following a post mortem revealed Mr Shelbourn died from poisoning by synthetic cannabinoid 5F-ADB.

Coroner David Hinchliff said: “It’s rather like playing Russian roulette isn’t it?”

Recording a verdict of drug related death, Mr Hinchliff said: “ I just hope the publicity Zack’s inquest gets will just remind people who might feel they may do use these substances that they are dangerous. They can cause death and have caused death. I’m not sure that’s going to stop everybody, but I just hope people might bear this in mind.”

Mr Shelbourn’s sister Leanne, 25, said after the inquest that her brother had been using legal highs sporadically for around six months before his death. She said: “He knew it was dangerous because I had warned him.”

Miss Shelbourn echoed Mr Hinchliff’s warning about the dangers of substances formerly known as legal highs.

She said: “Don’t even go there. It ruins your life. It’s just as bad as heroin to me. They make you lose your friends, your family, your home.”

And she welcomed legislation introduced in May this year outlawing the substances, adding: “I’m happy, but I think it’s a little too late for some people. We are not the only ones that have gone through this.”

The blanket ban on substances previously known as legal highs criminalises the production, distribution, sale and supply of the psychoactive substances.