The independent London newspaper

Dealer reveals double life of professionals whose weekends are one long chemsex party

Deported writer tells how his world fell apart after he became hooked on crystal meth amphetamine

16 November, 2017 — By William McLennan

Cameron Yorke

A MIDDLE-AGED writer who was jailed for dealing hard drugs to fuel his own addiction has told how his life spiralled out of control after joining so-called “chemsex parties” at homes in well-heeled Camden streets.

Cameron Yorke was 50 when his first brush with the law sent him to Pentonville Prison in February 2016. He had become dependent on crystal meth amphetamine, widely used at drug-fuelled gay sex parties, often lasting several days, which he took part in at opulent homes in Belsize Park and Hampstead. Having been released after an 18-month stretch, Mr Yorke was deported in September to his native New Zealand, where he hasn’t lived for more than 30 years.

“Things started to fall apart for me professionally and I turned to drugs for self medication, for want of a better word, which then spiralled out of control and I ended up dealing to fund my habit,” Mr Yorke said, speaking from Auckland in the country’s North Island. He said the parties he took part in were happening “all over Camden,” adding: “In fact, on a Saturday night, if you walk anywhere through Belsize Park or Hampstead, you will see gay guys flitting from one house to another, like mice in a pantry.”

The recreational use of drugs, to enhance sex with multiple partners, is not without risks, as Mr Cameron knows all to well. In September 2015, 53-year-old Mohammad Saleem, a married father, overdosed on GHB – often taken in combination with crystal meth during chemsex parties – and died at Mr Yorke’s home in Belsize Avenue. An inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in February 2016 concluded that his death was “drug-related”.

Mr Yorke believes that many users, who are often maintaining dual lives with a professional career, have nowhere to turn when things get out of control. “The problem was, there was nowhere to go to. There is very little education about what you can do and can’t do,” he said. Healthcare professionals are well aware of the culture and associated problems.

In Soho, the specialist clinic, 56 Dean Street, offers advice and counselling to help users “maintain control if things become difficult”. The Mortimer Market Centre clinic in Bloomsbury also specialises in offering support to chemsex drug users. Charity London Friend runs a service called Antidote, in Caledonian Road.

However, Mr Yorke thinks many of those affected would resist help. “The people that are doing [drugs] on the street are nowhere near the people that are doing chemsex orgies. They are lawyers, accountants, teachers, professional people. They are not going to walk in off the street to a drop-in centre to get help for their addiction,” he said.

Joe David, of Camden-based online support group, said that there were some “great” services available, but added: “Access is still problematic for many gay and bi men. “Those who want anonymity, or who don’t access the mainstream gay scene or its publications, are unlikely to be aware of the more high-profile services, or be willing to sit in open reception areas. Many chemsex drug users are also in denial about the level of their drug use, and after partying for weekends on end don’t tend to finish their sessions with chats about which is the best drug service, or how they nearly died.”

Mr Yorke said detailing his account, in a self-published book entitled Candy Flipping, had been “cathartic”. Last week, the book received the “life story” award from the Koestler Trust, a charity supporting offenders in their artistic endeavours. The category was judged by documentary-maker Louis Theroux.

Mr Yorke is putting the finishing touches to his latest work, Double Bubble, which claims to be a no-holds-barred account of his experiences within the British criminal justice and immigration system. Recounting his first encounter in Pentonville with an inmate hooked on spice – a synthetic cannabis widely use in prisons – Mr Yorke said: “[My cellmate] starts pacing up and down the cell and then starts bashing his head against the wall. Then he starts screaming. No one comes. Nothing happens. Then he started screaming at me. He was standing right in front of the panic button and I couldn’t get anywhere near it. This went on for about three hours. I lay there awake the whole night, staring.”

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