By Nick Mcdermott
Last updated at 10:09 PM on 30th August 2011
The parents of an ‘exceptionally bright’ teenager obsessed with Pete Doherty yesterday blamed the glorification of drugs for their son’s fatal heroin overdose.
Freddy McConnel was a talented musician, a table tennis champion and a member of Mensa who had appeared on Junior Mastermind.
But the 18-year-old was found dead in his London flat in May this year, surrounded by used syringes and a dirty spoon.
He was a close friend of Peaches Geldof and wrote in his diary about how he intended to inject heroin during one of her visits.
And he idolised rock star Doherty, dressing like the singer and often wearing a copy of his trademark black trilby.
After his inquest yesterday, his mother Annie Tempest read out a family statement which said: ‘Freddy’s death was of course a tragic waste of a young life. But as his parents we can only hope that the moderate publicity it has received may help to bring attention to bear not only on the dangers of drugs but on those who publicise and glorify their use.’
His father, composer James McConnel, has previously called on Doherty to ‘take responsibility for the drug culture he has engendered’.
Freddy began taking drugs aged seven, the coroner’s court in Westminster heard yesterday. By the time he was in his teens, he was a heavy user of mephedrone – also known as meow meow, until last year a legal high – and went on to use heroin daily.
His mother, who draws the Tottering-by-Gently cartoon strip in Country Life magazine, said yesterday: ‘Do not think for one minute that legal highs are safe.
‘Freddy’s diaries clearly state that he knew his downward spiral started with what was then a legal high, mephedrone.
‘It was a gateway to his ultimate death. In his diaries he has written an accurate account of how he descended – Freddy himself thinks it began aged seven.’
Freddy was ‘an exceptionally bright child’ and was ‘assessed as gifted’ while at primary school and swiftly bumped up a year, the court heard. As a teenager, he threw himself into things with a ‘determination which was frightening’ and had a ‘love of both words and music which had he lived would have ultimately become his career’.
In an effort to beat his addiction, he spent three months in the Priory rehab clinic in Essex last year and further time in a specialist clinic in South Africa.
But a statement read to the court by coroner’s officer Deborah Plant said: ‘Tragically, Freddy had his demons and what had begun as experimentation with drugs gradually morphed into the full-on disease of addiction which, although he fought it, gradually defeated him.’
His body was found in his south London flat by a police officer after his parents became concerned about his wellbeing. He was lying face down on his bed with drug paraphernalia scattered around him.
A post-mortem examination found toxic levels of morphine in his bloodstream, and coroner Fiona Wilcox yesterday recorded a verdict of death by non-dependent drug abuse.
Soon after his death his father had spoken of his son’s obsession with Doherty, writing: ‘He idolised Doherty and Doherty’s lifestyle; he dressed like Doherty, with a facsimile of Doherty’s trademark black trilby permanently perched on his head.’
The singer, who rose to fame with The Libertines, was jailed for six months in May after being filmed taking crack cocaine by Robyn Whitehead, a documentary-maker, the day before she died of heroin poisoning.
During sentencing, the judge told the singer he had an ‘appalling record’ of court appearances for drug-related offences. He has made 14 court appearances and faced 25 drug charges.
Angry friends of Miss Whitehead, a Goldsmith heiress, branded the singer ‘morally responsible’ for her death.
In May, Sheila Blanco, the mother of Cambridge graduate Mark Blanco, 30, who fell to his death from a balcony after an argument with Doherty and two other men during a party, called for the singer to face justice.
The CPS found no evidence of a criminal act.
Doherty has always denied any wrongdoing.