Cannabis, murder and the ‘Liverpool Echo’

Below is a copy of the email I sent to the editor of the Liverpool Echo two days ago, following an exchange with several of their journalists on Twitter. I received a reply yesterday, one that was polite and thoughtful, but ultimately unsatisfactory. The main journalist in question, Jonathan Humphries, has stopped engaging with me on Twitter, leaving unanswered my question about why he did not mention cannabis at all in his main reports on the conviction and sentencing of Sami Salem.

Dear Sir, Madam,

My name is Ross Grainger. I am the founder of Attacker Smoked Cannabis (attackersmokedcannabis.com), an online catalogue of cases of suicide and psychopathic violence committed by cannabis smokers. I am writing to you regarding a recent Twitter exchange I had with several of your journalists (in copy) about two cases of murder reported in your paper.

I would first like to provide some context by telling you a bit about my site. Created last November, Attacker Smoked Cannabis exists to show that cannabis is a prime factor in countless acts of suicide and psychopathic violence, cited as such by numerous judges, coroners, detectives, forensic psychiatrists, barristers, parents, victims and criminals themselves. Simple though it is, it has generated quite a bit of interest, and was cited in the Sunday Times in Scotland (‘Cannabis use linked to brutal teen violence’) and the Daily Express (‘Alesha MacPhail: Murder leads to calls to get tough on cannabis’) following the appalling murder of Alesha MacPhail in Bute. It was more recently cited byMail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens in a piece about the murder of Dr Barry Hounsome (‘This country is slowly being choked to death by the ‘rights’ of wrongdoers and the refusal of authority to protect the innocent’). Quite a few of the many hundreds of stories on my site come from theLiverpool Echo, including those at the source of the dispute I shall presently describe.

Yesterday, I read this article, ‘Drugs, guns and murder – the tragic friendship of Brandon Bilsborough and Connor Hunt’, by Jonathan Humphries, about two teenage friends involved in the murder of Mark Hillman, slashed in the face with a knife by Hunt, then, hours later, lured to a bogus drug deal and shot at close range by Bilsborough, who then fled with the former to Malaga, where the pair spent £4000 in five weeks of debauchery. I found it astonishing that, despite two photos showing Hunt smoking cannabis, with his arm around Bilsborough in one of them, and what seems to me the obvious link between cannabis and psychopathic violence, Mr Humphries did not mention what mind-altering drugs the young men had been taking. After adding the case to the murder category on my site (‘Murder, manslaughter and infanticide’), I tweeted,

‘Drugs, guns and murder – the toxic friendship of Brandon Bilsborough and Connor Hunt’

What drugs might they be? The Liverpool Echo (@LivEchoNews) doesn’t say, despite including this photo, and another like it.

(https://twitter.com/ross_grainger/status/1138517299588214784)

As Echo journalist Jenny Kirkham quickly pointed out, this was factually incorrect, as it says in the third paragraph that the men dealt crack and heroin. I acknowledge this error, and wish I had specified that I am interested in what mind-altering drugs the young men had consumed, as I regard this as a more important factor in their savagery than their ostensible concern about their illicit trade. Nevertheless, the mistake has proved valuable, as it has teased out some questionable opinions about cannabis in the aforementioned writers, most notably in the terrible triple murder committed by Sami Salem.

As I write on my site (‘Cannabis ignored in yet another awful case of paranoid murder and infanticide’), it is quite remarkable that in his reports on Mr Salem’s conviction (‘Dad who suffocated wife and drowned two kids GUILTY of murder’) and sentencing (‘Dad who suffocated wife and drowned kids jailed for minimum 31 years’), Mr Humphries failed to mention cannabis at all, despite the fact that, as noted during the trial, which Mr Humphries reported on, Mr Salem had a caution for possession of cannabis and a knife, that he smoked, by his own admission, 1.5g of cannabis per day, and that his GP believed his cannabis smoking was “the main source of his symptoms.” Instead, Mr Humphries noted all manner of other factors, including that Mr Salem smoked cigarettes and ate food after the murder; and, in a brief Twitter exchange with me, appeared closed to the possibility that Mr Salem’s ‘paranoid schizophrenia’ was the result of his regular consumption of cannabis over a period of at least six years prior to the murder. He was, I should further add, dismissive of my work, describing it as ‘ridiculous’ and a ‘crusade’, and claiming that I don’t understand the term ‘psychopathic’.

I urge you, Mr Humphries, and all your writers to reconsider your perception of cannabis and how you report on it. A very powerful and well-funded movement is at work to legalise the drug in the UK, and benefits whenever the drug is not mentioned in such cases of murder. Cannabis is, I repeat, a prime factor in countless acts of suicide and psychopathic violence. Please bear the following words in mind when reporting on similar cases:

“Those whose minds are steeped in cannabis are capable of quite extraordinary criminality. Your brain has been steeped in cannabis for most of your adult life.”
Judge Anthony Niblett: Cannabis smoking leads to criminality, judge tells arsonist

“This was an appalling attack of extreme and persistent violence. And I have no doubt it would not have happened if you had not consumed cannabis.”
Judge Findlay Baker, QC: Cannabis session led to soldier killing teacher

‘From the limited evidence which was available to the Independent Investigation Team, it appears possible that, if MB had been fully compliant with anti-psychotic medication and had refrained from misuse of cannabis, then he may not have suffered from a relapse of his psychotic illness. In these circumstances, the death of Gemma Simpson might have been prevented.’
NHS England Independent investigation into the care and treatment of MB [Martin Bell], March 2018

“I am for anything that gets the message across to people, particularly young people, that cannabis is very, very dangerous. Joanna started smoking the drug when she was very young and it progressed when she went to university… It was like she was in a vicious circle where the drug would be the only thing to relax her but also worsened her health. Joanna’s death is such a waste. She had her whole life in front of her. She was a beautiful girl and very talented. I don’t think many youngsters understand the extent to which it can affect people.”
Father of Joanna Barton-Harvey: Drugs warning by tragic Joanna’s dad

‘Cannabis has ruined my life.’
Words of a note left by Charles King, 23: Cannabis linked to student’s suicide

“We firmly believe cannabis was the catalyst in a chain of events that ended with Lee’s death. Children who smoke cannabis are playing Russian Roulette with their lives, particularly if they are at risk from suffering mental ill health. The government should be making everyone aware that cannabis is harmful.”
Parents of Lee Wellock: Parents’ blast after cannabis led to son’s death

“We believe that cannabis was a directly-contributing factor towards his death and no one will ever convince me otherwise. He was a perfectly healthy and happy young man until he started to use cannabis. Eventually, it caused his depression and he was smoking it to heal himself. There are a lot of young people out there killing themselves through drug use and more needs to be done to raise awareness. We believe cannabis caused the depression and more should be done to investigate its links with mental illnesses.”
Parents of Stephen Breheny: Family blame drug use for student death

“I hate to think of other families going through the nightmare we endured. We will never recover from this, any of us. Guy may have taken his own life, but it was cannabis that killed him.”
Mother of Guy Summers: ‘Skunk killed my beloved son’

“People think nothing of cannabis nowadays. They just don’t realise this drug can tip you over the edge. A lot of people try it. With the government downgrading it, I think young people assume it is completely harmless. But it can destroy your mind.”
Mother of Laura Bower-McKnight: Mother blames cannabis for suicide of promising violinist daughter

“I don’t subscribe to the view it’s recreational and it’s no big deal to be smoking or selling cannabis. My experience of people I see in this court is that almost without exception they are seriously damaged by the use of cannabis. It certainly leads to mental illness. It is in my judgement a dangerous drug.”
Judge John Boggis, QC, 2007: Judge’s warning on cannabis danger as teenager is jailed

“Time and again we are getting cases where alcohol and cannabis seem to have resulted in violence. They just don’t seem to mix.”
Judge Peter Armstrong, 2008: Concerns over rise in cannabis and alcohol-fuelled violence

“There had recently been discussions by politicians as to whether or not it was a mistake to reclassify cannabis and whether or not it should be reclassified as B rather than C. When considering possible reclassification those whose duty it is to do so may reflect upon the death of Stuart Lester. The use of cannabis can lead to devastating effects. It may be thought that this may not have happened had this young man not used cannabis as a child.”
Coroner Stanley Hooper: Cannabis linked to man’s suicide

“There is a misconception that cannabis is not harmful and clearly this case demonstrates that it is. Heavy use of cannabis can impact on a person’s mental health. Mr Cooper Taylor was an upstanding member of the community who went to help a neighbour. He tragically lost his life and this poor elderly lady has been left physically and mentally scarred.”
Detective Chief Inspector Damian Allain: Cannabis addict jailed for life for stabbing Good Samaritan to death as he tried to protect elderly neighbour

“If you lie down with dogs you are going to get fleas. It is bad news, but the real bad news started when he first got arrested for smoking cannabis. Once he took that path we couldn’t get him off it. And it will happen to hundreds of others his age.”
John Butler: Axe attack father: cannabis ruined my son

“When I see that from the age of 10 you have been taking cannabis on a regular basis and even at 14 you were taking cocaine and ecstasy, any right-thinking person is going to think there has got to be something wrong in our society. It must be every victim’s worst nightmare to awake from a deep sleep and find an intruder armed with a knife. It is truly a picture of horror. You have had such an awful effect on this lady’s life.”
Judge Kerry Macgill: Cannabis-addicted boy aged just 14 raped 58-year-old woman at knifepoint in her home

“As I have already remarked, your case is a cautionary tale for those who think cannabis is a harmless drug. Quite how you managed to persuade yourself that an offence of the gravity of this charge was something you were prepared to do I confess I cannot really begin to imagine. It was a planned robbery and you took a weapon, a screwdriver.”
Judge William Hart: Cannabis addict’s student career wrecked after being jailed for robbing elderly shop assistant

“This was a cruel and cowardly attack on a young man who had done nothing wrong. You showed scarce regard for human life. Your initial motivation was robbery to get money to buy cannabis. In my judgement you got caught up in a frenzy of violence.”
Judge Adele Williams: Teenagers jailed over mugging which left boy in coma

“This was a tragedy waiting to happen. It is true that one of the risk factors for your mental illness is genetic, within the family. The other risk factor is your persistent use of strong cannabis, known as skunk. The more you abused that unlawful drug, the more psychotic you became, to the understandable concern of your family. You had even smoked cannabis before you set out on the day in question and you bear responsibility for the taking of that drug.”
Judge Giles Forrester: Cannabis-smoking father jailed for life after fatal stabbing

“This is a very tragic story. He was an intelligent, likeable young man who went to university, and I suspect it was there that he came into contact with cannabis. Cannabis is a dangerous drug and is harming more and more people. It is as dangerous as hard drugs.”
Coroner Michael Rose: Cannabis warning following A303 death

“It is always worth underscoring this is not a harmless substance. In the hands of a 14-year-old, it’s the starting point of a disastrous sequence of events.”
Coroner Richard Hulett: Cannabis blamed for former Marlow man’s suicide

‘I’m trying to make sure Oskar is happy and safe and while you are addicted to weed and violent and abusive he’s not safe at all.’

‘You throw him around like a toy, suffocate him, stick your finger down his f***ing throat! And he’s always in the middle of our arguments and fights. If you aren’t going to protect your son and be a f***ing dad then I’m leaving.’

‘If you want to be in our lives if you really care about me and our son you would quit. You come home and suffocate our son because you can’t be arsed with him because you want weed.’

Messages from Tia Jobey, 19, to Kane Kennedy, regarding their seven-month-old son Oskar: Killer dad smothered baby son to death in rage ‘triggered by smoking cannabis every day’

“He hopes that if he can get himself off cannabis it will reduce the risk of him reoffending.”
Kelly Shooter, defending Joshua Webster: Derby teen dad Joshua Webster is ‘risking losing everything’ after assaulting woman at her home

“Cannabis f****d him up. He’s smoked it all his life.”
Brother of Joe Xuereb: Pictured: Office worker fighting for life with mother after horrifying hammer attack as family of man, 27, charged say “cannabis messed him up and he was sectioned eight years ago”

“If any case demonstrates the dangers and potentially tragic consequences of cannabis abuse, such as you had taken part in for many years, this is such a case.”
Judge David Hatton, QC: Dad jailed for ‘cannabis-induced’ baby murder attempt

“There is a chronic mental illness. This is exacerbated by very heavy cannabis use. It seems you have been able to continue cannabis use in prison.”
Judge Rosalind Coe QC: DJ jailed for firing shotgun in street just days after he was released from mental health unit

“Striking or throwing a baby against a wall is analogous to using a weapon against a defenceless child. And you knew you would be caring for that child but chose to stay up half the night before abusing cannabis.”
Recorder Anthony Chinn QC: Father jailed for vicious attack on baby son after night spent smoking cannabis 

“At the time of committing the offence the defendant was suffering from a mental disease. It was an acute transient psychotic disorder. I accept, as does Mr Berry, that is was brought about by the use of cannabis in the days leading up to it.”
Defence barrister Alex Daymond: Man launched “ferocious” attack on Hilperton woman while high on cannabis

“You are an adult responsible for your own actions. The problems you face in your life are not their fault. You can’t blame them. You must address the issue of misuse of cannabis.”
Judge Andrew Long: Man who terrorised his own gran and left her with £17,000 debt

“Cannabis took my son from me”.
Mother of Richard Harris: ‘Cannabis made my boy a killer’

“He’d smoked too much cannabis and flipped out. Your Honour will have told many defendants it’s not the harmless drug that many young people think it is. It has deleterious effects … what else could explain his conduct other than he was completely out of it when his cannabis supply was cut off[?]”
James Varley, mitigating: Jail for man who shot girlfriend 13 times with airgun

“Your violent urges were exacerbated, as you knew, by your long-standing use of cannabis. Even if cannabis did not play any direct part in your offending at the time of the attacks, you [sic] smoking of cannabis was one of the triggers for the killings.”
Mrs Justice Carr: Church-going cannabis user who strangled his grandmother and drowned his aunt is jailed for life

Your sincerely,

Ross Grainger

Cannabis ignored in yet another awful case of paranoid murder and infanticide

As soon as I read of the case of Sami Salem, who last year was jailed for murdering his wife and two children in a state of extreme paranoia, I knew there would be cannabis involved, and that I would probably find it mentioned not in the reports of his conviction or sentencing, but in earlier reports in the local newspaper, in this case the Liverpool Echo, of the trial itself. I was right on both counts.

Anyone who browsed the news on or around 20 April last year may have read of Mr Salem’s conviction for suffocating his wife, drowning their two children and attempting to commit suicide at their Liverpool flat on 30 May 2017: the BBC mentioned in its headline that the flat was once inhabited by John Lennon; the Daily Mail also noted the famous flat, and that the ‘schizophrenic’ Mr Salem saw ‘a black entity and tall chimpanzees’; the Daily Mirror quoted Mr Salem’s brother, who said that he had been paranoid “for weeks” before the murders; and the Liverpool Echo reported Mr Salem’s claim that an ‘evil midget’ told him to slaughter his family. None of them, though, cited Mr Salem’s consumption of cannabis, despite the fact that this featured at least 15 times in the trial, including in such statements as, “When he [Salem] was at that health unit he indicated that he drank alcohol and he indicated he used cannabis, and he was told using cannabis could affect how he felt and his mental health”, ‘Salem told him [his GP] he had been smoking one and a half grams of cannabis a day until a couple of days previously, when he attended the Royal Liverpool Hospital to see the crisis team’ and, from GP Dr Oliver Lutte, “I believed Salem’s cannabis intake was the main source of his symptoms.” In addition, it was also noted during the trial that Mr Salem once received a caution for possession of cannabis and a knife.

To be fair to the aforementioned news outlets, they may have been influenced by Dr Mohammad Rahman, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, who when asked during the trial if alcohol or cannabis had any part to play in the murder said, “Not in my opinion”. Then again, they may simply be indifferent to the possibility that there is a link between Mr Salem’s many years of regular cannabis consumption and his act of psychopathic violence, and that this is much more relevant than the fact that the murder took place in the former flat of a famous pop star, who, as it happens, strongly supported the decriminalisation of marijuana and once, with his fellow band members, financed a full-page ad in the Times calling for this to happen.

The account of the trial can be found here: Sami Salem who suffocated wife and drowned kids to be sentenced for murder – updates from court

Teenager who bludgeoned OAP to death claimed he was “scared” of 8 stone victim

Liverpool Echo | 26 Feb 2018 |

Giving evidence for the first time today, he told a jury how he had smoked cannabis since the age of 11 and described himself as sometimes not sleeping for three nights due partly to drug abuse.

On 2 Mar 2018, the defendant, 17, was found guilty of murder. The following month, he was sentenced to life in prison and revealed to be Cameron Cruddace.

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/face-teen-who-murdered-oap-14585335

Schoolboys recorded themselves brutally assaulting shopkeeper in sickening racist attack

Liverpool Echo | 8 Mar 2017 |

Julian Linskill, defending the other 16-year-old, said the attack came after they smoked £90 of cannabis.

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/schoolboys-recorded-themselves-brutally-assaulting-12713275