PROSECUTORS in the Netherlands have dramatically dropped a murder charge against a Dutch drugs dealer they had alleged was responsible for the death of a former Burnley College student.
Law enforcement officials have also defended themselves against accusations that they could have done more to save the life of Joel McDevitt, who collapsed and died after taking 'white heroin' in Amsterdam in October 2014.
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The public prosecutor's office in the Netherlands has admitted there is no clear evidence to link the chief suspect, a dealer known only as 'Flip S', to the death of Mr McDevitt and two other Britons.
Mr McDevitt had taken the drug along with a friend while on holiday, and both were found later collapsed close to the Reguilersgracht Canal in the city.
Amsterdam Municipal Court heard Mr McDevitt had been taken to a police cell after leaving hospital to find his friend, and refusing to return. It was in this 'day cell' that he was found with no heartbeat at 4am. He was then taken to hospital and declared dead.
His friend, who was not named but is also understood to be from the Burnley area, later discharged himself from another hospital.
Gerald Roethof, representing Flip S, said: "Trained officers were told immediately after the discovery of this sick man [McDevitt], who would eventually die, that they needed to monitor his breathing and that they should keep the defibrillator ready.
"If the court is now bringing a charge of manslaughter, while the police knew this victim needed urgent help after he had left hospital, then the question is why my client is now being charged for an even bigger crime."
But a justice department spokesman said police had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
He said: "They did their best to hunt down this man again and not leave him on the streets."
Police disciplinary investigators found that there was 'no criminal act or omission' in relation to the incident so no officers were being prosecuted.
Two friends from the Plymouth area, Bradley Price, 21, and Shaun Brotherston, also collapsed and died after apparently taking the 'white heroin'. Murder charges involving the pair have also been withdrawn.
Flip S still faces attempted murder charges in relation to three Danish tourists, who were also hospitalised after taking the same substance.
The case has provoked intense media interest in Holland, with Flip S initially branded the Coke Killer.
Investigators in Amsterdam have now admitted that the true killer of Mr McDevitt and the two Plymouth men could still be operating, with fresh victims not ruled out in future.
The three deaths and at least 12 reported similar overdoses led to police and public health officials mounting a major information campaign, urging others to steer clear of the potentially fatal narcotic.
Flip S handed himself in to the authorities after CCTV stills were released of a suspected dealer, who was said to have been riding around the city on a bike selling the drugs.
But he denied telling police he accepted responsibility for the deaths of the three British tourists, though he did confess to selling drugs, believing them to be cocaine, to the Danes.
And in the dock, according to the Dutch newspaper AD, Flip S told the Amsterdam court: "When I heard that I had sold white heroin, my heart stopped."
Prosecutors have demanded a four-year jail sentence on the attempted murder charges and Flip S has been remanded in custody for sentence on February 23 by the trial judge.
An inquest into Mr McDevitt's death has been opened and adjourned by East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor, pending the final outcome of the Dutch legal proceedings.