Drugs link to death of top loyalist Shoukri
A CORONER yesterday said the abuse of illicit drugs in society "has become really endemic" as he found loyalist Ihab Shoukri died from pneumonia sparked by drug use.
Brian Sherrard said that, in the past number of years, he has been "more and more often dealing with deaths of fit young people with their lives still ahead of them".
Mr Shoukri, 34, was the eldest of two brothers who have been linked with the UDA in north Belfast.
He was six months away from becoming a father for the first time but instead died after taking scores of illegal and prescription drugs, including heroin, cocaine, diazepam and codeine.
Andre Shoukri, who was released from Maghaberry prison last May, was at the coroner's court yesterday for the hearing into his brother's sudden death in the early hours of November 23, 2008.
The inquest heard that Mr Shoukri, who was described at the inquest as a "former civil servant", died in his sleep at his Rathcoole home after staying up late to watch a Ricky Hatton boxing match.
He had been feeling unwell earlier with cold symptoms but had taken a Lemsip and gone out to play a football match before returning home, having a Chinese takeaway and relaxing in front of the television with his girlfriend Emma Ritchie and friend Stephen Green.
Ms Ritchie said she went to bed at around 3am, but when she came downstairs again at 9am, she found Mr Shoukri lying in the same place on the sofa but not responding.
She described to the inquest how she performed CPR while waiting for the ambulance.
Assistant state pathologist Dr Peter Ingram told the inquest that Mr Shoukri would have died after falling unconscious from the effects of the drugs and that there were no signs of violence on his body.
Ms Ritchie told the inquest that hours before he died, they had been lying on the sofa together picking out baby names.
She had just been for her 12-week scan with Mr Shoukri's first child, and said he was excited about becoming a father.
Ms Ritchie said she was not aware of Mr Shoukri having taken drugs that day and two police officers told the court there were no signs of drug use at the house.
The Shoukri family drew the coroner's attention to Mr Shoukri's history of fits.
He had suffered 15 seizures between 2003 and 2006 but doctors had been unable to determine the cause and he had not been attending appointments.
In a highly unusual move, a lawyer acting for the family made a submission to the inquest that seizures be added to the cause of death.
However, Mr Sherrard maintained Dr Ingram's cause of death as pneumonia and effects of morphine, codeine and diazepam.
The inquest also heard that Mr Shoukri worried a great deal about his brother Andre, particularly whenever there was a press report about him.
Ms Ritchie told the inquest: "He constantly worried, he went deep into himself."
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