Hartlepool man plunged to his death after climbing from 60ft scaffolding while on Ecstacy

Ecstasy pills. Credit: Paul Faith / PA
Ecstasy pills. Credit: Paul Faith / PA

A club-goer accidentally plunged 60ft to his death after he clambered up scaffolding for a lark when he began hallucinating while under the influence of Ecstasy.

James Lees, 21, had been seen dancing in the street, singing and waving his arms before he scaled six storeys up a building at 3am after swallowing up to five Ecstasy tablets.

He climbed into a ledge but moments later slipped and fell and was found lying on the road below with multiple injuries. He died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics to revive him.

Tests showed James, a technical analyst had taken “fatally toxic” levels of Ecstasy, a psycho-active amphetamine-based drug MDA and a former legal high known as NRG3.

Today as an inquest coroner warned of the dangers of taking “designer drugs” it emerged the tragedy occurred after the victim had been partying at The Warehouse Project in Manchester, where three other clubbers died and 16 others were sent to hospital in various drug related incidents.

The Manchester hearing was told James and his friends had attended the club’s Mastermix night at a car park underneath Piccadilly Railway Station, last November after travelling 124 miles from their homes in Hartlepool and booking into a hotel.

One of the group Daniel Robinson said: “We started off from Hartlepool at about 6pm. I was driving and they were all drinking in the car on the way there. We got to the Warehouse Project and we all went to the bar to get drinks.

“I said I was going to the toilet and that I would meet them back there. By the time I got back to where they had been none of them were there.

“I did bump into them all eventually. James was happy and bouncing about. We were going to the different floors to watch the different acts when we got separated again.

“I thought that all of them were together so I went back to the hotel and thought they would be back there by the morning. I woke up and they weren’t there. We tried to contact James but we just couldn’t get hold of him.

“It was only later on that we found out what had happened. They were drinking Vodka Rockstars.

“James had five pills with him when he got in the car - they were Ecstasy pills. He said that he was hopefully going to sell a couple of them. I didn’t see him take anything. He was just being happy and dancing.

“He was bouncing. I think he did some balloons. He was just loving life and happy and dancing. I last saw him around 2am and the Warehouse Project finished at 4am.”

Another friend Carl Massey told the inquest: “We were sharing my bottle of vodka and had 2-3 drinks from James when we were driving in the car. We shared a full litre of my vodka about 4-5 glasses each.

“James got in the car with about 4-5 Ecstasy tables and asked ‘do any of you want any because I don’t want to be the only one’. He said he didn’t want to take them all so he said he was going to try to sell a few of them.

“The last time I saw him was about 2.30am. He was happy and normal and didn’t seem down or anything. I didn’t see him take anything all night.”

James’s mobile phone was found near his body but it was too badly damaged to be examined for messages.

Elizabeth Davies, Coroners Officer told the hearing: “James had travelled with friends to go to the Warehouse Project in Manchester and arrived there at 10.15pm but James became separated and the last time they saw him in the club was 2.30am.

“A witness who called police at 3.30am saw James and he believed the man was behaving in a way that he was under the influence of drugs.

“He was dancing and laughing and singing and waving his arms about. He saw the male start to climb the scaffolding. He kept climbing until he got to a ledge on about the third storey, then he lost sight of him when he reaches the 6th storey. He next saw the man when he was on the floor.”

James’ father John Lees told the hearing: “My son had not been to Manchester before and did not know the area. When he arrived he texted to say that he had arrived safely. He had lots of plans for the future.

“He had a girlfriend, he had been on holiday and he was planning to go on holiday again. As far as I was aware James was anti-drugs.

“The first I heard about this was when the police arrived on the Saturday and told me that he had been taking drugs. I had seen a video of James laughing and singing and in good spirits on the way to Manchester. Whatever happened was definitely not intentional.”

Coroner Fiona Borrill recording a narrative conclusion saying James died as a result of an accident contributed to by the effects of excessive use of MDMA and MDA.

She said: “This is extremely distressing and a tragic case of a very young man who had everything to live for. James had taken a significantly high amount of Ecstasy. On the drive to Manchester he had five Ecstasy tables with him and he must have taken more Ecstasy at the Warehouse Project because the levels in his blood were found to be fatally toxic.

“The effects of the illegal drugs James too were effects of euphoria, agitation and hallucination. We do not know what condition he was in when he was on the ledge - but it could have been because he slipped or because he was hallucinating.

“I am satisfied that the amount of drugs James had taken contributed to his behaviour that evening. I hope his friends understand the risk of taking illegal and designer drugs.”