The man who lost his life by unknowingly injecting heroin cut with a deadly elephant tranquiliser was “the love that will burn your soul forever” for the partner he left behind.
An inquest heard Neil Waters (45) died from injecting carfentanyl – a drug 10,000 times more potent than heroin – and fentanyl, commonly used in “pain patches” for cancer patients and 100 times stronger than morphine.
His partner of three years, Sharon Carter, revealed Neil, of Tydd St Mary, was a talented artist and poet, and had worked as a landscape gardener at the family home of Princess Diana, the Althorp Estate, in Northants.
He had also worked at Lockwoods in Long Sutton, and as a builder and plasterer before setting up his landscape business.
Neil was born in Gedney, attending Long Sutton Primary School and then Peele.
Sharon (43), a director of an estate agents and rental company, said: “His mum died when he was six and that was the start of his problems.
“He felt he didn’t belong from the age of six. Very early on he found drugs and he found they helped him fit and belong.”
Sharon has never taken drugs herself but Neil became her window on that world, and she is calling for drugs to be made legal so substances are properly regulated and users are not criminalised.
“I am a big advocate of legalising all drugs because Neil would not have bought what he thought was heroin and got fentanyl and carfentanyl inside,” said Sharon. “What we are doing is criminalising people, sometimes at a very young age and then we are labelling and we all know labelling is wrong.”
Sharon says many people are addicted to prescription drugs but they are not treated as badly as people like Neil, who suffered from substance use disorder (SUD).
“I have seen how people reacted to Neil, professional people, ambulance staff, police and doctors,” said Sharon. “They (illegal drug users) are treated like lepers.”
At his funeral service, Sharon expressed heartfelt feelings about Neil and read out a letter imagined to be from him, one she compiled from their many conversations.
Explaining her feelings, Sharon said: “They say that in one lifetime you can love many times, but there will be one love that will burn your soul forever ... that is how I feel about you.”
Sentiments Sharon expressed on Neil’s behalf included: “Tell my story – do not let people be ashamed of it and pretend it never happened. “We both knew people were ashamed of me when I was living because of what I had become but we both know I felt more shame than all of them put together.”
Sharon also gave a voice to her partner so he could, through her, describe his descent into drug addiction.
She has Neil say: “At first it was sweets and biscuits and my own imagination. Then it was alcohol, parties, women and recreational drugs.
“As time went on I did not heal my pain, I just found more drugs to cover it up.
“I felt entitled to make myself feel better and I thought I had found the answer ... I hated waiting for anything.
“When I wanted something, it was all I could think about – until I got it, and then I wanted something else.
“I always felt alone and so pained and had a need to fill that void.
“I thought drugs made me fit. Then it was too late – I was too far in.”
Being Neil’s partner opened Sharon’s eyes to drug dealing that goes on all around us, including kids on bikes delivering heroin and little old ladies selling off things like prescribed morphine tablets.
She said: “There are kids in Long Sutton delivering drugs on their cycles. This is not weed, this is heroin.”
“Don’t forget you have also got little old ladies and little old men who are getting prescribed medications and they are selling their tablets.
“It’s not just your kids or young teenagers.”
Sharon explained that heroin addicts will also use other tablets, like morphine, if they can’t access heroin.
She said: “These GPs are prescribing heavily and people will sell them (the tablets).”
• At last Wednesday’s inquest into Neil’s death, Sharon – and coroner Paul Cooper – warned about the deadly effects of carfentanyl, which will kill if a grain of salt sized speck is injected, touches the skin or is inhaled.
Sharon also warned the substance is finding its way into recreational drugs like cocaine and marijuana.