Cooking up a toxic mix

KATHY WEBB
P cooks in Hawke's Bay are creating lethal brews using chemicals stolen from tanneries, carpet factories and dry cleaners.
Mums, dads and kids all over Hawke's Bay are sucking up stuff used to clean printing presses or make plastic packaging.
Richard knows all about this. He used to make a living as a professional P cook for the gangs who control the market. Now "totally anti-P" and trying to turn his life around, he has a blunt warning for people strung up and strung out on what they know as P.
"They're laughing at you."
The gangs are laughing at you because you're selling your souls for pretty-coloured crystals soaked in toxic chemicals, he says. What you're buying is not clean methamphetamine, it's a lethal cocktail, and the buzz you get for five or 10 minutes is not an amphetamine rush, it's toxic shock. That's why your brain sinks into a black hole, why you can't think straight, why you crave the rush again, why it drives you mad. There's just enough amphetamine in there to keep you awake for three or four days - that's why you're paranoid and angry - but basically you don't have a clue what you're doing. You're suckers.
Richard says he never used P - heroin and speed were his thing - but he's been on the inside of the gangs making millions out of it, and he's turned out a few batches of it for them.
He's seen how lucrative it is. He can point out blocks of flats and offices built with the proceeds, and the lifestyle blocks where those in the know live in fancy homes, the flash cars they drive, and the private schools they put their kids through.
This boy who was clever at high school chemistry can rattle off the chemicals and processes that go into making the purest of P, and he knows what's in the stuff being sold on the mass market.
That's why, now avowedly anti-P, he wants to put out a warning.
"Half of it is unclean residue they're calling P.

They're smoking toxic residue in a glass pipe, and they're not even getting an amphetamine rush. It's toxic shock.
"A lot of addicts are not addicted to amphetamine. It's to the toxins in their bodies. When you remove it, they go into shock."
The people making most of the money from P - Hells Angels, Head Hunters and a motor cycle chapter of Black Power - keep the purest meth for themselves, their closest associates, and the very top of the market, he says.
Theirs is made from laboratory-grade chemicals they "source" themselves and provide to the cook, who gets a 35 percent share of the batch.
One batch takes about three days to make. The last step in the process is to wash the methamphetamine in chloroform, tolulene or ether.
"Chloroform is the best. You get a beautiful crystal that looks like rock salt." The best P is kept for select circles, and the dregs and bad (coloured) batches go to the mass market.
If it's pale orange, it's got industrial-grade trichloroethylene (dry cleaning fluid) in it, but that doesn't stop it going on sale with a sales-pitch name.
"Guys sit around laughing and making up names for bad batches. It it's orange, they might call it 'mandarin'. They even use food colours sometimes," says Richard.
When dry cleaning fluid is used for the last wash, and the mixture is put on a baking tray in the sun to evaporate, or on a rack above the stove, it dries out quickly.
"The gear that comes out is orange or brown. They're calling that P. It's dirty. There's all sorts of toxins and crap in there. People are stupid. They're not aware, half the time, of what they're using, and the dealers are laughing at these clowns," says Richard.
The P made for gangs is given to their prospects to sell in 10-gram bags. The buyers mix in other things, then divvy it up into one-gram bags that sell for $800-$1000 each.
"The people who buy that are the struggling solo mothers and fathers living in the poor suburbs."
They smoke some of their gram and cut the rest with something else into 13 or 14 "points" and sell them for $60-$80 each.
"If they're really lucky they'll make $65 out of it, but most are smoking their profit and use their benefit just to pay for the gram they bought."
More supplies of P come from a pathetic mish-mash of addicts and others using whatever ingredients they can get their hands on. They turn out four-hour concoctions from "labs" in their car boots, university hostel rooms or home kitchens, using anything from dry cleaning to wool scouring fluids.
"I read the stories and I'm amused by their stupidity, and the stupidity of the people buying the chemicals they're producing.
"Today we're having a tolulene shock. Tomorrow it'll be acetone or ether, and dry cleaning fluid the day after."
Addled brains and P cooking are not a good mix. It's a dangerous process at the best of times, so it's not surprising that every so often a cook and a kitchen go up in smoke.
Richard says it can happen when they haven't got enough ventilation, the kitchen fills with evaporating gases, and the cook sits down and lights a congratulatory smoke. Or sometimes, astoundingly, the cook uses a gas stove. Richard used to sell his services to whichever gang offered him the most money, the best deal.
Getting the best ingredients was the first challenge. The gangs have people doing it full-time, armed with lists of chemicals to look out for.
They might swap a 2.5litre bottle of chloroform for a 10-gram bag of "gear".
There was a guy in Wellington who was a "professional burglar and very good chemical supplier".
"He looked like a librarian, driving old English cars".
He had a nice place in a good suburb of Wellington and was being paid massive amounts of money. It was the money that proved to be his undoing, when people became suspicious about his wife buying vehicles and overseas holidays and paying for them with paper bags full of money.
"There's that much money mixed up in this business. Some of the guys at the top are making hundreds of thousands," says Richard.
One of the chemicals in P is red phosphorus, used for re-packing shotgun shells.
"Anyone with a gun can get that."
The Maori gangs have cornered the black market in it, getting big supplies from Hawke's Bay and Northland where families have big gun cabinets.
Some years ago, P cooks used to drive to Palmerston North and "knock off" Massey University's bio department to get clean chemicals, says Richard.
The Smith Salmon laboratories in Hutt Valley and Takapuna were also on the list, along with the Poukawa research centre south of Hastings.
Richard's warning about P has come out of the fact that although it's been around for quite a long time, he's worried that it's become more widely used and accepted as a social thing to share. Whole families are entrenched in it, passing the culture from parents to children, and it's setting the scene for what he believes will be the next drug plague - Asian heroin. The Asian gangs are now well established and selling "ice" (another name for methamphetamine) to various gangs and a wholesaler in Onehunga, he says. They'll use their links to bring in heroin, and a large slice of New Zealand society is prepped and ready to go for it.
Richard first got into drugs in Wellington in the 1970s. He was bored at school and more interested in smoking hash and going skindiving. His home life wasn't too hot, with his father mixed up in illegal gambling and fencing.
At 15, some friends introduced him to heroin, which was "easier to get than dope", and he was hooked.
"It had an almost mystical appeal. I was seduced by the image. I wanted Italian leather shoes, a Rolex and a fastback Camaro.
"I got those, but I also got prison, bad teeth, poor circulation, and I can't get a job. It wrecked my life." Richard went to jail four times.
"Doing jail is like a professional occupational hazard. Just like a carpet layer gets crook knees, people in the drug scene will end up in jail or dead.
"You have three choices - go to jail, clean up, or die."
His first stint was at 18, and he was terrified.
"Now it holds no fear for me whatsoever. It's like a friggin' health camp. It's an absolute joke. You get three square meals a day, you don't have to work, you can take whatever drugs you want as long as you have the wherewithal. You can have a jug and a toastie maker and a TV in your cell.
"It should be like a labour camp, working from 6am to 6pm in an environment you don't want to go back to.
"The biggest thing is your loss of freedom, but you put on weight, pump weights and come out fit and healthy."
The last time he got out, he had a home-detention bracelet and a new mind-set. He'd decided it was time to change his life.
Now middle-aged, he's "totally anti-P", coming to terms with his past, contemplating his options, and planning the future for his kids.
"At long last I've become a young adult.
"If I had my life over again there is no way I would get mixed up with drugs. I would probably have joined the Air Force or Army to get some discipline in my life."
Richard would love a real job, but with a drug and jail history such as his, the chances aren't high, so he's thinking about university next year.
"I'd be a very clever lab technician, but they wouldn't give me a job doing that."
He's horrified to hear a young woman's assertion that tinnie houses are lacing cannabis with P and giving or selling it to kids outside school gates in Hawke's Bay.
"That terrifies me. That's just very nasty. It makes me angry. A lot of blokes like me have children, and if they knew this they would be very very angry."
If he found out anyone involved with P was hanging around his children, "I would be asking an old acquaintance to take them away and have a chat with them".
"I don't want my children mixed up with the drug world."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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