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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 12:34 GMT
Illegal vodka claims woman's life
The bootleg vodka
Police have warned people not to drink the vodka
An East Lothian woman who became seriously ill after drinking bootleg vodka has died in hospital, police have revealed.

Lothian and Borders Police also said they have traced a man who supplied the vodka.

However, detectives believe the bottles he obtained were part of a larger consignment, thought to have been bought in the west of Scotland.

Police would not confirm which one of two women taken ill this week had died but warned the public to be on alert.

A 42-year-old woman from Musselburgh and a 39-year-old from Tranent were said to be in a serious condition in hospital on Friday after drinking the vodka.

The illegal alcohol is thought to contain dangerously high levels of methanol.

Public health concern

This can cause abdominal pain, dizziness, breathing difficulties and blurred vision, which can even lead to blindness.

Detective Chief Inspector Allan Jones of Lothian and Borders Police said there was a public health concern.

"The woman's death is a tragic example of the high price to be paid for buying cheap illegal vodka," he said.

"We believe these bottles contain higher than normal levels of methanol and could cause serious health problems for anyone who drinks them.

"The symptoms include abdominal pain, blurred vision and breathing difficulties and we have two women seriously ill in hospital suffering from methanol overdose."

We suspect there may be several more bottles unaccounted for
Detective Chief Inspector Allan Jones

The vodka is believed to have been sold in the Tranent, Prestonpans and Musselburgh areas during the last week.

"However, there is the possibility that the vodka may be being sold elsewhere in the country and as a precaution we would advise anyone elsewhere who may have bottles of this specific vodka to contact their local police," added DCI Jones.

"We have recovered several cases of the illegal vodka but we suspect there may be several more bottles unaccounted for.

"We are currently following a specific line of inquiry to trace the distributor, but until we get more information the public should not drink from these bottles but contact their local police."

'Seek medical advice'

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Andrew Fraser, said: "Our advice is that anyone who may have obtained fake or possibly contaminated vodka should not drink it.

"If you think you have taken this type of vodka and are feeling unwell as a result, you should seek immediate medical advice."

The clear glass one litre bottles with a red cap are labelled as being 37.5% proof.

The have the words Original Vodka Russia Export Quality written on blue, white and red labels, and on the back have a smaller label containing the words Vodka Original Russia and Made in Belgium.




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Smuggling threatens corner shops
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