A vulnerable student died after taking diet pills containing a highly toxic chemical originally used to make explosives during the First World War.
Eloise Parry, 21, took eight tablets of dinitrophenol (DNP) which had been imported from China and sold illegally online, a court heard .
The chemical raises the metabolism and so can aid weight loss. But it also causes dehydration, nausea, vomiting, sweating, irregular heartbeat and organ failure. Miss Perry, who had bulimia, suffered a ‘most distressing death’, Inner London Crown Court heard.
She had bought the pills from a website run by Bernard Rebelo, 30, his partner Mary Roberts, 32, and their associate, Albert Huynh, 33, the jury was told. They deny manslaughter.
Parry, from Shrewsbury, who had a history of self-harming, started taking DNP pills in February 2015.
In the weeks before her death, the student at Glyndwr University in Wrexham was admitted to hospital several times as a result of the chemical’s effects.
She sent desperate messages to her friends telling them she wanted to stop taking the pills but was ‘psychologically addicted’ and knew that feeling her temperature rise meant her fat was burning. She bought DNP from the defendants’ website even though it is illegal to sell the drug for human consumption, the jury heard.
On April 12, 2015, Miss Parry took eight 250mg tablets and placed another online order.
Feeling unwell, she drove to Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. She messaged a friend, saying: ‘I screwed up big time. Binged/purged all night and took four pills at 4am. I took another four when I woke and I started vomiting soon after. I think I am going to die. I am so scared.’
She suffered a cardiac arrest later that day and died.
The court heard that Rebelo, Roberts and Huynh started their business in 2012, selling steroids. They began importing DNP in barrels from China, disguising it as the spice turmeric because it is a similar colour. At a flat in Harrow, north-west London, they turned it into pills which they sold via two websites.
A 25kg drum of DNP could be bought for £340 to £400 and the pills from it sold for £200,000, the jury heard.
Rebelo and Roberts enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, buying designer handbags and luxury cars.
When police raided the flat in February 2016, the carpets were stained yellow by DNP and wads of cash were found.
Prosecutor Richard Barraclough QC said the accused knew the drug was dangerous as two of them had tried it and suffered ill effects.
Huynh, of Northolt, north-west London and Rebelo and Roberts, of Gosport, Hampshire, deny supplying an unsafe food product and manslaughter. Roberts denies money laundering.
The trial continues.