A woman lost her house, husband and job after her son tragically died of a drug overdose in his university room.
Daniel Redman’s parents and siblings were completely unaware he was regularly taking drugs at Manchester Metropolitan University until they were called to A&E on February 19, 2016.
After three agonising days of watching him on a life-support machine, the Redman family, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, were told Daniel was braindead, the machine was switched off and he became a multi-organ donor.
The shock and emotional impact of his death proved too much for mum Marie and Daniel’s dad, who split, forcing them to sell the family home after his mum’s grief made working as a nurse impossible.
Following the divorce, Marie took Daniel’s name as her new surname so she would constantly be reminded of her 20-year-old son.
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Convinced that Daniel, who was found with an unusual mixture of substances in his system at an autopsy, might be here now if drugs were properly regulated, Marie now campaigns for laws to be reformed.
“We were completely unaware of it, we didn’t know anything until the overdose,” Marie told Mirror Online.
“It was like a hand grenade going off in my life.”
Government data show that nearly 4,400 people died from drug overdoses in England and Wales in 2019 – the highest number since records began in 1993 and a 52% increase in 10 years.
Marie had no reason to believe that Daniel would ever be included in those statistics.
The only indication Marie had that Daniel, who she described as a “very gentle boy”, would get in trouble was his joyful wrecklessness as a child.
On one memorable occasion when he was 13-years-old he climbed over the family’s glass conservatory to get into the house having forgotten his key.
Daniel caught glandular fever during his A Levels, which lead him to flunk the exams and spend most of six months in his room.
When he came out one day and announced his plan to retake his exams and study economics at university, Marie was overjoyed that he was turning his life around.
During his five months at Manchester Met he made the 80-mile trip home regularly to see his family.
“We saw no change in his appearance or behaviour,” Marie said.
“He always took such pride in his appearance, loved expensive designer clothes, always smelled beautiful with his designer fragrances and his stunning auburn hair was always well-styled.
“He had been home for reading week and returned to the university the day before we received the phone call.
“I had had my usual chat with him as he lay on his bed the night before.
“He had looked me straight in the eye and assured me that he was happy in Manchester, that he was on the right course and doing well.
“Less than 24 hours later I was forced to confront the reality that it was all a tissue of lies and make-believe.”
Marie had regularly spoken to her children about drugs during their teenage years and was convinced they knew how to keep themselves safe.
With Daniel as her third child, she felt confident he’d be fine and feel able to talk to her if he ever got himself into bother.
“As far as we knew he was fine,” Marie said.
“His behaviour hadn’t changed, he was well dressed and smart, but he kept it very secret from us.
“It was only through talking to his friends that we found out what was going on.
“His telly and his games console was gone. He had sold everything in his uni room.
“We also found out he had a £2,000 overdraft.”
Marie believes that Daniel first took drugs at music festivals when he was a teenager but had started using them with increased regularity when he got to university, where ketamine and cocaine were easy to come by.
What began as a social activity ended up with Daniel isolated in his room, his girlfriend later told Marie.
In the weeks leading up to his death Daniel told his girlfriend that he was a ‘mess’ and that he had a habit he couldn’t tell anyone about.
The day before his overdose Manchester Met emailed Daniel to tell him he’d been thrown off his course.
At the inquest, his family were told that Daniel had died of an accidental overdose of dihydrocodeine, a prescription only painkiller, and had a small amount of diazepam and amitriptyline in his system.
“I have no idea if he knew what he was taking, probably not,” Marie said.
“Drugs bought on a street corner do not come with a label.
“I am staggered that we were all so blind to what was happening.
“There were four adults in our household and none of us had any idea of this secret life.
“Daniel kept his two lives so separate that none of us had any suspicions.
“You feel like you have been walking around with your eyes closed.”
In the years since his death Marie has become steadfast in her belief that if drugs were decriminalised and regulated, Daniel may not have accidentally overdosed and may have felt able to speak to her about his problem.
“I had grown up hearing all the propaganda from various governments about how vile drugs were, and I thought it was someone else’s problem,” she continued.
“Regulation is the only way to go. We need to make drug use a health issue rather than a criminal justice one.
“When Daniel died there were seven deaths a day in the UK. Now there are 12.
“People have this stereotype that drug users are in the corner with scars on their arms, but it could happen to anyone’s child.
“When I was a kid we would drink alcohol and smoke, but now they can get hold of drugs and they’re curious about what they do.”
The cost to Marie of losing her son has been considerable.
“I couldn’t go back to being a nurse and it cost me my marriage,” she said.
“My husband couldn’t accept drugs had killed his child and he used to want to tell people that Daniel had died from a cardiac arrest.
“He didn’t want to mention drugs to people.
“By lying he could pretend. I was left with my two sons here who had lost their brother and then their dad.
“My middle son emigrated to America the same year. Within a year there had been five of us in the house, now there are two.
“I had to leave our home where Daniel had grown up, we live in a flat now.
“My life is unrecognisable. I work in the same ward where I always did, but as a house keeper so I make a lot less money.”
When not working Marie spends her time campaigning for Anyone’s Child, a charity which pushes for drug law reform.
She said: “I refuse to be ashamed of my son. I don’t want him to be just another statistic.
“Daniel’s life was precious, it had only just begun when it was cut short.
“I came to Anyone’s Child and it was a big relief for me. I faced the truth I didn’t want to face.
“People said Daniel was unlucky, that he only did it once, but that wasn’t true.
“It was quite cathartic facing the truth. I am doing this for Daniel. I am doing it for him.
“I feel proud that he is helping to keep other children’s safe.”
Health Poverty Action is another organisation which is pushing for reform with the UK’s drug laws.
Tess Woolfenden, policy officer at the charity, said: “Heart-breaking stories like this could be prevented if the UK legally regulated drugs.
“Over 3 million people in the UK say they use drugs, but under our current laws it’s incredibly difficult to get drugs tested so people can stay safe.
“Criminalising drugs is an archaic policy that consistently puts more people’s health and lives at risk than it saves.”
A Manchester Metropolitan University spokesman said: “Our thoughts remain with Daniel’s family and friends.”