Tammy's son supplied drugs that killed my daughter… but we've become such good friends

Tammy's son supplied drugs that killed my daughter… but we've become such good friends

October 29, 2021

IT is a friendship that started in devastating circumstances.

Full-time mum Kerry Roberts lost her 15-year-old daughter Leah Heyes after Tammy Kirkwood’s son Connor supplied her with MDMA in 2019.



Connor, who was 17 at the time, was given a 21-month prison sentence for supplying the class A drug, and while grief-stricken Kerry, 37, has never spoken to him, she did agree to meet his mum Tammy, 50, in May.

Now the two women, both from North Yorkshire, are campaigning for the Government to make selling class A drugs to under-16s a specific crime.

Kerry, who lives in Northallerton and is also mum to Ava, two, says: “I know you would not expect us to be friends.

“People will see us as two separate things but we are both grieving. They are both our children.

“We were introduced to each other through restorative justice, where victims of crime can meet those who committed the offence.

“I did not want to meet Connor, but it was suggested that by meeting his mother we would be able to share and understand each other’s stories.

“I had hatred for Connor and for the situation. I thought, how is it going to do me any good? I have nothing to say to her.

“But hearing the other side of the story helped ease those emotions.

“I was hesitant to attend. It was only 18 months after the tragedy but thought I’d give it a try, and was told I could leave at any time if I felt uncomfortable.

“We met at a local hotel and I was sitting at a table. Tammy walked in and sat opposite me.

“I recognised the pain in her face. She was not that different to me.

“We had some pre-prepared questions written down. I wanted to know about Connor and how he could have done this and how she felt about everything. But the conversation just flowed.

“Tammy was very apologetic but I reassured her that I didn’t blame her and she didn’t have to apologise. I was never angry at Tammy.

“It was incredibly emotional. Tammy explained she had been struggling for years to get help for Connor, who has a form of autism, but he had become involved in county lines gangs which target vulnerable teenagers like him and use them to supply drugs.

“I was surprised by how easily we were able to talk to each other. I didn’t know if the meeting would do me any good, but afterwards I felt relieved. Tammy was a mother just like me who had also been affected by drugs.

“She is fantastic and I’ve learnt a lot through meeting her.

“As mothers we are strong and I think together we are a powerful force that could really make a change for good.

“We are petitioning the Government about making it a specific offence to sell drugs to minors after being approached by the crime commissioner for North Yorkshire.

“I hope other children out there can look at my face and see the devastating impact that these drugs can have.

"Tammy and I met in the most horrific circumstances.

“But we’ve turned that into something that will hopefully ensure other mothers do not have to go through what we have.”

I didn't know why Kerry would want to meet me. I expected her to scream at me

Leah collapsed after taking ecstasy with some friends in Northallerton in May 2019.

Kerry was called to the scene, along with police, but Leah died later that evening at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

In November 2020 Connor, then 18, admitted supplying ecstasy and was ordered to serve 21 months. Teesside Crown Court heard how Connor had supplied the drugs to a go-between — Mitchell Southern.

Southern, 19, admitted supplying cocaine and ecstasy. He was given 12 months’ detention.

Kerry says: “I’ll miss Leah every minute of every day. She was so funny and full of life. I’d do anything to hear her laughing again.

“We were so close and could talk about anything. I had spoken to her about the dangers of ecstasy, but I don’t think she realised that MDMA is the same thing and I’d no idea that she was being introduced to class A drugs.

“Her little sister arrived months after I lost Leah and they would have adored each other. I had been in hospital with severe morning sickness in the days leading up to Leah’s death and we had been chatting over the phone about everyday things.

“The night Leah died, on 11 May 2019, was a normal Saturday. She got ready with her friends in her room listening to music and then went out around 7pm.

“I came home from hospital that evening and settled on the sofa in my pyjamas.

“At 9pm I got a call from a close friend of Leah’s who said something was wrong. I worried that she had been drinking alcohol and had a little too much, so I got changed and went to collect her.

“When my partner and I pulled up at a car park, Leah was lying on the floor. I knew something was very wrong.

“She looked up at me and said ‘Mum’ before losing consciousness. It was all such a blur.

“I was numb with shock as, minutes after being rushed into hospital, she was pronounced dead. The MDMA had poisoned all of her organs.

“It’s an indescribable pain — and it didn’t have to be this way. She should never have been given the drugs that killed her. She should still be here.

“But through all of this, something strange happened. Two mothers who have lost so much bonded through our heartbreak.

“I never would have imagined that we would be friends. But I’m glad I met her.

“She is lovely. She’ll often text to make sure I’m OK and she always reminds me to rest and take time for myself.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with together and we’re doing everything we can to ensure no other families have to go through what we’ve been through.”

Health and social care worker Tammy, from Dishforth, has also taken strength from the friendship.

Connor’s mum says: “I didn’t know why Kerry would want to meet me. I’m the mother of a drug dealer. I expected her to scream at me or throw things.

“My son supplied her daughter with drugs and is part of the reason she is no longer here — and that’s just awful.

“But Kerry wasn’t shouting. She was calm and her questions about Connor were measured. We had an instant connection.

‘Constant guilt’

“Ultimately we want the same thing, more education and stricter laws for dealing drugs to children and we will fight for that.

“Although stricter laws would have impacted my son, he might never have been groomed by county lines gangs if the consequences were more severe.

“It was devastating to hear about Leah’s last words to her mum. I just felt so guilty. I’m constantly carrying the guilt of my child being involved in someone else’s child losing their life.

“It will stay with me — and Connor — for ever. Thinking of that night is hell. There was a knock at my door around 2am. It was the police and they were looking for Connor.

“My heart sank. Connor is on the autistic spectrum, vulnerable and at risk and had been in trouble before. I had been battling against him for years.

“He used to be a happy, smiley little boy, always outside playing sports. But that changed when he got in with the wrong crowd.

“He was angry at the world and spent all his time in his room.

“I once opened a delivery that came to the house and found lots of small plastic bags for drugs. Shocked, I called the police but Connor wouldn’t give them any names.

“I called the police several times over the years and begged for help as Connor’s behaviour got worse, but nothing happened.

“I was a very present parent. I would always call the parents of his friends so I’d know where he was. I had a strict curfew and even drug-tested him.

"But it wasn’t enough and I received no support. So when the police knocked on my door that night, I just knew it was bad. Connor wasn’t home and so the police said to call 101 as soon as he returned.

“Connor rang me the next morning and told me that he’d supplied drugs to a girl that had died. I was in shock.

“When he arrived home, I called the police. They arrived in a big van. I had a small puppy at the time so I asked them to wait a moment while I shut him away, but they must have thought I was hiding Connor and they broke my front door down.

“I’ll never get the image of my little boy, being handcuffed and taken away, out of my head. It felt so wrong to see my son in the dock in court. I kept thinking, he’s just a little boy, how has this happened?

“Connor was released from prison in May and is working in a warehouse and doing a sports course at college. He aims to have a stable future.

“I feel it is now my place to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs.

“Kerry asks me how my son is coping with everything. I couldn’t believe that she would check in like that. She’s a strong and caring person.

“The thing that stays with me about Kerry was when she told me not to feel guilty and that she doesn’t blame me.”

– Kerry and Tammy are calling on the Government to make it a specific criminal offence to supply drugs to children under 16. To sign their petition, go to petition.parliament.uk/petitions/596771.

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