Dad of tragic Scots ecstasy teen says acquittal of man accused of killing her has strengthened his resolve
Callum Owens walked free on Friday after jury returned verdict of not proven on culpable homicide of 13-year-old Grace Handling and her dad Stewart is determined to protect other young people from drugs.by Sally Hind, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/authors/sally-hind/
The dad of ecstasy death schoolgirl Grace Handling says it is now his calling to help protect other young people from the dangers of drugs in her name.
Stewart Handling said last week’s acquittal of the teenager accused of killing 13-year-old Grace by supplying her with the drug more than two years ago had only strengthened his resolve to spread the life-saving message.
The 50-year-old, from Irvine, said: “My calling in life now is warning about the dangers of drugs for young people.
“My mission is to ensure young people know the dangers of taking ecstasy and the fact that dealers are grooming young kids online and on Snapchat in Scotland.
“I believe some good can come from this situation if one young life can turn down a drug because of what happened to Grace and say, ‘That wee lassie died, I’m not wanting that’.
“If it can have an effect on one soul, then that’s amazing.”
Callum Owens, 19, walked free from the High Court in Glasgow on Friday after a jury found the culpable homicide charge against him not proven.
The trainee chef had denied killing Grace by supplying her with ecstasy at his Irvine home on June 28, 2018.
He admitted to the court he gave the drug to the schoolgirl, saying they both took an ecstasy pill and he woke up to find her dead on his living room floor the next morning.
Owens claimed he tried to revive Grace before fleeing his home and throwing away the pills but said he was too afraid to call an ambulance or ask for help and felt “responsible” for his friend’s death.
The Record told on Saturday of the Handlings’ fears that the verdict would send a dangerous message to those who take and supply drugs.
But Stewart, who has already visited schools to help educate kids on substance abuse, hopes he, wife Lorraine, 47, daughter Danielle, 20, and son Matthew, 23, can help protect others by telling Grace’s story.
He said: “This verdict does not define us and the verdict hasn’t altered how I will go forward with my campaigning. If anything it has re-enhanced my calling.
“There are many more people out there like Callum Owens, who give drugs to young people.
“To bring a risk down, you have to put in place measures. At the moment in Scotland, there are many cities, villages, towns and hamlets where the risk is at an unacceptable level.
“There are other people out there on Snapchat, social media and at parties, who are quite willing to give young people drugs in a grooming manner. They try you out on drugs first to see if you like the effects of it and pull you in.”
The five-day trial heard Grace, who died of ecstasy intoxication, had called a friend from Owens’ home and told her she had taken three tablets.
When she didn’t come home, her family reported her missing and she was found dead at Owens’ home the next day.
Owens gave a statement to police the day after, when he admitted permitting Grace to take the drug and leaving his house without calling for help.
In private Facebook messages revealed in court, Owens told a pal he had “killed a c*** man” while Grace lay dead at his home, adding, “It’s all my fault.”
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Grace’s family were left “disturbed” after hearing the pal had suggested leaving Grace’s body outside the flat.
The jury also heard the popular schoolgirl, who dreamt of being a police dog handler, had admitted to taking the drug on a few occasions in the months leading to her death and her mum and big sister had both warned her of the dangers.
Stewart said: “One of the reasons Grace experimented was because she was suffering from anxiety. She was a loving, sensitive, caring daughter.
“She suffered from mental health problems but was failed and didn’t have the support. But we felt she was stigmatised by the defence.
“Many addicts have mental health issues and are victims in my book and should be educated and supported.
“We need to see more people going into schools with proactive drug advice. In 10, 20 maybe even 30 years, I hope we can still be telling Grace’s story to help others.”