A former Perth paramedic has admitted pilfering supplies of a potent painkiller which is up to 100 times as powerful as morphine and substituting it with saline solution while working as an ambulance officer.
Barend Sean Van Heerden, a 35-year-old from South Africa, appeared in the Perth Magistrate’s Court today where he pleaded guilty to stealing as a servant and possessing a prohibited drug after he stole amounts of Fentanyl – a powerful opiate pain killer – while working for St John Ambulance.
The offences occurred between August last year and January and involved Ven Heerden stealing Fentanyl from vials using a sterlised syringe and replacing it with saline solution.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Michael Gregg told the court Van Heerden had initially started by taking a quarter of a vial but it later increased to half a vial. He was said to have done this with about 35 vials.
Defence lawyer Alex Mossop from Tottle Partners told the court Van Heerden took the drug for himself and used it nasally.
He said Van Heerden had worked as a firefighter and paramedic in Johannesburg and had seen unimaginable and brutal violence, having witnessed six murders, including a “necklacing” case where a tyre was put over a person who was doused in petrol before being set alight.
Mr Mossop told the court Van Heerden, a former paratrooper, had moved to Australia with his wife of eight years and started suffering “vivid and debilitating” flashbacks, including seeing victims’ faces.
He said his client became suicidal and admitted his conduct to his employer, tendering his resignation and then going to police.
Mr Mossop said Van Heerden was remorseful and had since sought treatment.
Sgt Gregg argued there was a strong need for deterrents and said Van Heerden’s actions may have affected patients who may have had to suffer through pain longer than they needed because the painkiller was diluted.
Mr Mossop told the court his client was unlikely to return to work as a paramedic.
Magistrate Elizabeth Woods adjourned sentencing for two weeks and said she wanted more information about fentanyl and the estimated value of the drugs stolen by Van Heerden.
Yesterday’s case comes as two paramedics were this week arrested in Victoria by police investigating the theft of large amounts of Fentanyl from Victoria’s ambulance service. One paramedic has been stood down amid an investigation into the theft of the Fentanyl which was replaced with tap water.
Read the original here:Paramedic admits diluting painkiller – The West Australian.