Cape Town. 040712. A photo of Gianfranco Zampelli at a memorial that were held for him at the Edge Church in Edgemead. Gianfranco died of a herion overdose and his body were found in a park in Bellville. Picture Leon Lestrade. Story Henriette Geldenhuys.

Heroin addiction has claimed the lives of at least three people in the Western Cape in the past three weeks and 32 since the start of the year, sources told Weekend Argus.

The latest victim, Gianfranco Zampelli, 24, of Plattekloof Glen, was buried on Wednesday after taking a heroin overdose.

Zampelli, also known as Franco, was found dead in a park in Bellville on June 18 after escaping from the Together We Can drug rehabilitation centre not far away.

But his death has not deterred a relative and close friends from continuing to take the drug.

Two of them spoke to Weekend Argus after his funeral – one a self-confessed addict and the other a friend who has been clean for eight years.

Both are 24 years old and did not want to be identified.

The addict said: “I buy it for R40 for a quarter of a gram. Mostly, I buy seven quarters a day but sometimes I get up to 20. We stop in Durban Road (Bellville) and buy it from dealers, from Nigerians to Tanzanians and Moroccans, next to the road. I’ve got more than 10 dealers’ numbers on my phone. I’m banned from the local pharmacy because I was always trying to get them to give me needles.”

The friend said he had lost six friends in the past year, all aged 24 to 30, to heroin addiction.

Some had overdosed and some had committed suicide, he said.

“For us, eternity starts at 24 because that’s when we die.”

The addict has admitted taking the drug together with Zampelli’s relative.

As he spoke, the friend interrupted: “You took heroin yesterday. Didn’t you think: ‘But my friend died from this?’”

But the addict said he had become dependent on heroin and hadn’t “processed” Zampelli’s death. “I need heroin to go out, to go eat, to go to sleep,” he said.

He said Zampelli’s relative was also an addict and had broken burglar bars in his bedroom to escape from home, taken his father’s car and bought heroin from a dealer.

The addict and relative took the drug together last Monday, and the addict took more on Tuesday.

On Wednesday they attended Zampelli’s funeral at the Edge Church in Edgemead.

The friend added: “The people in our group started taking drugs at 14. We had to make life-changing decisions at 16.

“My friends continued taking drugs, but I decided to fill each hour with an activity, such as going to church and studying.”

Sources said at least three people have died from heroin overdoses in the past three weeks, while 32 people have died this year.

However, Western Cape police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander was only able to confirm that Zampelli’s death was the second heroin-related death in the past three months.

Zampelli had been in a rehabilitation centre for seven months and escaped in June. Days later, on June 18, his body was found.

Cathy Karassellos, the clinical psychologist at the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, said she wasn’t surprised heroin addicts close to Zampelli had continued taking the drug, despite his death. - Sunday Argus