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Man killed by herbicide 'diet aid'
A man died after drinking a toxic herbicide which was sold to him as a weight loss aid, a court heard today.
Sean Cleathero, 28, was advised to dissolve a sachet of the drug Dinitrophenol (DNP) in water before he drank the concoction at a gym in Buckinghamshire.
Jamie Chivers, 44, Jason King, 41, and Peter Purkins, 47, are on trial at the Old Bailey over the 28-year-old's manslaughter on October 16 2012. They deny the charge.
The court heard they were involved in two businesses in High Wycombe - Precision Laboratories where the drug was produced, and Apollo Fitness where Mr Cleathero collected it on the day of his death.
The victim ordered the drug in powder form from Purkins because he said tablets he had before were not working, the court heard.
Chivers then dropped it off at the gym and King handed it over from behind the counter, advising him to dissolve it in a beaker of water before drinking, the prosecution said.
The jury was shown CCTV footage from the gym showing the victim drinking the bright yellow liquid and then start to sweat.
Prosecutor John Price QC said: "The minute he drank the contents of that glass he was a dead man because there is no antidote for what he consumed."
"He could not stop sweating even long after he had finished his workout and he was starting to struggle to breathe."
An ambulance was called and Mr Cleathero was taken to Wycombe Hospital where he died in intensive care eight hours after he took the poison.
A post mortem examination showed the cause of death was poisoning by DNP. His temperature had soared to 42 degrees, the court heard.
Mr Price told jurors: "The prosecution case is that this substance was supplied to him for his personal consumption as an aid to his weight loss."
He said the gym had "all the appearance of being a professional, well run and legitimate operation" but that was just "a veneer".
Mr Price told jurors that DNP was not a controlled drug and had a legitimate use as an insecticide or herbicide.
But he added that it was not fit for human consumption and to swallow it was to take a poison.
"Despite that, it never the less has a long history of misuse by humans as what is called a fat burner, as the name implies those who take it do so to assist in an attempt to lose weight," he said.
Mr Price said Purkins, King and Chivers were involved in the production and supply of DNP to the public for personal consumption and they would have known "the truth of it".
Nine years before Mr Cleathero died, the Food Standards Agency had advised that DNP was "extremely dangerous to human health" following an incident in Finland, the jury was told.
Chivers, of Spring Gardens Road, High Wycombe; Purkins, of Heather Walk, Hazlemere, and King, of Hazell Road, Prestwood, Great Missenden along with Laura Hague, 23, of Orchard Grove, Chalfont St Peter, deny charges of producing and supplying anabolic steroids.
King and Hague also deny perverting the course of justice by removing incriminating evidence after Mr Cleathero's death.
The court was told Chivers has already admitted perverting the course of justice after he "forgot" to delete CCTV footage showing him deleting incriminating footage from earlier in the week.
Purkins is not accused over the alleged cover up.
The trial continues.