A man who supplied the ecstasy that claimed a Coleraine woman’s life has walked free from court after the victim’s family pleaded with a judge to keep him out of jail so he can look after his young daughter.
Cathy Gibson, from Ballysally, died from drug poisoning after taking ecstasy and other drugs Frederick John McQuilkin (32) supplied.
But the family of the 29-year-old mother-of-two said they bore McQuilkin “no ill-will” and were “anxious that the court knows they do not want the defendant to go to jail”.
Ms Gibson was rushed to hospital from her Ballysally home in Coleraine in the early hours of June 23 last year, after taking drugs.
McQuilkin, who admitted a dozen charges including supplying class A drugs, was given a 12-month jail term suspended for three years.
Judge Desmond Marrinan said the case was exceptional, given the charity of the family’s plea and the damage a jail sentence might not only have on McQuilkin’s “innocent young child”, but also on him and his elderly parents.
McQuilkin had lost his own wife, leaving him to look after their now seven-year-old daughter, but had “dealt with the matter in all the wrong ways”, his barrister Paul Bacon, instructed by Reavey Solicitors, said.
The Antrim Crown Court judge added that the family of Ms Gibson knew McQuilkin, of Leicester Park in Carrickfergus.
They accepted his deep remorse and “see the good in him”.
In the circumstances, said the judge, “I am going to take the very unusual step in this case, and not cause the devastation to his life and young child which may otherwise occur”.
Judge Marrinan said McQuilkin and his friend went out that night thinking they were going to have a good time, when “out of the blue, the angel of death showed up in the form of this lethal cocktail of drugs”.
McQuilkin’s criminality was in buying the ecstasy tablets, cocaine and cannabis and then supplying it to his friends.
However, in doing so he became “the unwitting courier of a cocktail of drugs that were lethal”.
Earlier, prosecutor Rose Anne McCormick told the hearing that said some of the ecstasy tablets bought by McQuilkin and given to his friends had been mixed with another drug, PMA, which had added to their toxic effects.
Ms McCormick said that the friends also took some cocaine and cannabis on return to Ms Gibson’s home.
It was clear from the court papers that on becoming unwell, an ambulance was immediately summoned, and although rushed to the Causeway Hospital, Ms Gibson could not be revived.