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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 14:19 GMT
Secrets of a sordid world
By Chris Summers
BBC News Online

As a woman is jailed for ten years for killing two men, BBC News Online looks at the case of Kathleen McCluskey, which illustrated the difficulty detectives have when delving into the sordid world of drug addiction.

Marvin Brodie
Marvin Brodie had sex and took drugs with McCluskey
Having one man die of an overdose in front of you is a tragedy, two could be a coincidence, but three or four?

When the name Kathleen McCluskey kept cropping up in connection with drug deaths in Cambridge, police decided she was either a very unlucky woman or a very evil one.

Operation Falstaff was launched in September 2001 because of McCluskey's "proximity" to the deaths of four men who all died of drug overdoses.

Kathleen McCluskey
April 1960: Born Kathleen Baxter in South Yorkshire
1976: Left home at 16 and moved to Brighton
1980s: Later moved to London and then Cambridge
Dec 1994: Married James Wormold in December 1994
Aug 1999: Death of Mohammed Assadi.
Jun 2000: Death of Marvin Brodie
Mar 2001: Death of Ray Diaz
Sep 2001: Death of James McCluskey
Oct 2001: Operation Falstaff launched
Mar 2003: McCluskey is jailed for ten years
Eventually she was acquitted of two of the deaths and found guilty of manslaughter in the other two cases and on Wednesday she was jailed for a total of ten years.

The deaths took place in the sordid milieu of Cambridge's chronic drug addicts.

The genteel university city has a squalid underbelly inhabited by scores of heroin addicts.

Police estimate that burglaries by addicts trying to pay for their habit cost up to 1m a year in Cambridge.

All four of the dead men inhabited this sad and depressing world:

  • Artist Mohammed Shoja Assadi, 48, known as Martin, lived alone and was a heavy drinker who was prescribed low level doses of methadone several years ago.

  • Marvin Brodie, 32, worked occasionally as a care assistant.

  • Ray Diaz, 48, was a friend of McCluskey's.

  • James McCluskey, 44, was her second husband. They married in September 2001, eight months after her first husband committed suicide using a vacuum cleaner pipe attached to his car's exhaust pipe.

    Two others, who survived, gave police statements which cast further doubt on her assertions of innocence.

    Detective Chief Inspector Paul Craig decided to arrest McCluskey and charged her with administering a noxious substance to Charles Horsepool, who had survived an overdose in June 2001.

    In January 2002 McCluskey was transferred from prison to Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire because of concerns over her mental state.

    She was assessed by doctors who eventually decided she was fit to stand trial.

    But Cambridgeshire Police officers have admitted they were surprised the case got as far as a trial because of the difficulty of proving McCluskey's intent to kill.

    Mohammed Assadi
    Mr Assadi died of a heroin and alcohol overdose
    They were also painfully aware there was no motive - financial or otherwise - for her to kill any of them.

    Kathleen McCluskey's life was nothing if not unorthodox.

    Born in Yorkshire as Kathleen Baxter, she ran away at the age of 16 and lived in Brighton and London before eventually turning up in Cambridge.

    In 1994 she married James Wormold and he took her surname as his married name.

    But theirs was an open marriage and they attended sex and drugs parties in Cambridge together.

    On 20 August 1999 they attended a party at Mr Assadi's house.

    Mr Baxter eventually left but his wife remained and in the early hours of the following day she rang an ambulance and paramedics arrived and pronounced Mr Assadi dead.

    In March 2000 a coroner recorded an open verdict on Mr Assadi.

    Three months later Kathleen Baxter had sex with Marvin Brodie and the following morning took a taxi back to her home with him so she could take her methadone.

    James McCluskey
    She was acquitted of killing James McCluskey
    Later that day Brodie was found dead and once again paramedics were called by Mrs Baxter and they found him with an empty bottle of methadone beside him.

    Again an open verdict was recorded at an inquest.

    James Baxter committed suicide in January 2001 and his widow was free to set up home with James McCluskey who she soon married.

    Ray Diaz, another addict, lived nearby and visited the couple regularly.

    On 29 March 2001 Diaz bought some heroin but it was "no good" so he went to the McCluskeys to get something better.

    An hour later he collapsed and a post mortem later attributed the death to an alcohol and heroin overdose.

    On 25 September 2001 James McCluskey bought some heroin and was found unconscious early the following morning.

    Ray Diaz died of an overdose
    He died of alcohol and methadone poisoning.

    A month later Mr Horsepool made his complaint - he had fallen ill in the summer of 2001 after taking a vodka and herb concoction made up by Kathleen McCluskey, with whom he was having a sexual relationship.

    In November 2001 Peter Bakulinskjy came forward to report an incident which had happened on Christmas Day 1999.

    He had drunk methadone with an unknown additive at Mrs McCluskey's home and was unconscious for five hours.

    McCluskey was later acquitted of administering a toxic substance - methadone - to him.

    But sentencing McCluskey on Wednesday Mr Justice Moses said that in the case of Mr Assadi and Mr Brodie the jury was sure the drug was not taken in the exercise of a fully voluntary choice.

    Widow guilty of killing two men
    17 Dec 02 |  England

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