Corby family suffer torturous wait for justice for Ross as fatal morphine court case hit by delay after delay
Despite a man admitting supplying illegal morphine which contributed to Ross's death, a sentencing hearing has been put back again
“His shoes are still in the cupboard. His coat’s still hanging up. His car keys are still there and his car’s in the driveway.”
The words of a broken Corby mother who says her family was destroyed when her boy died aged just 19 after taking a drug meant to provide pain relief for terminally-ill patients, handed to him by an older man he worked with to treat a toothache and headache.
Ross Clark died just two weeks after moving out of his parents’ home, and hours after his colleague Scott Moffat gave him some illegal liquid morphine at work to treat minor pain.
But despite 36-year-old Moffat admitting a charge of supplying a class A drug, Ross's parents Ellen and Ross Snr have been unable to grieve for their son because of court delays caused by a "broken system".
After one hearing had been adjourned for a probation report, last month they turned up at Northampton Crown Court expecting Moffat to be sentenced only to find a junior barrister was put in the 'hideous' position of prosecuting such a serious case. Ellen bravely read powerful victim impact statements but the hearing was adjourned so a report into the toxicity of Moffat's morphine could be completed.
Yesterday (Thursday) Ellen, Ross Snr and other family members arrived at court again ready to see Moffat punished. But the prosecuting barrister had changed and the judge had changed, meaning they would likely have to go through the trauma of reading their statements again despite the hearing being part-heard. The morphine report had not been completed with the family later told nobody in the country could do it.
And to compound matters Moffat's previous barrister was on holiday. The case had been 'released' to another set of barristers' chambers to represent him but nobody was available to come to court, meaning Moffat was not legally represented and the case would be adjourned again. Nobody had told any of this to the furious Clark family, who now have to wait for another court date before they can start to grieve.
Ellen, 50, said: "This is torture. We are living through torture.
"Who looks after us? Who looks after how our family is coping with this?"
Ross was found dead the morning after he was given the illegally-obtained drug while doing a shift at the Rockingham Logistics Hub at Corby’s former speedway.
A charge of manslaughter had originally been considered by prosecutors before Moffat was charged with supplying the class A drug.
Over three separate hearings, Northampton Crown Court heard the circumstances surrounding Ross’s death and the horrific consequences for his entire family.
Prosecuting barrister Lucia Harrington told the court at a hearing last month: “Late on February 14, 2020, Ross was on Snapchat chatting with his friends Connor Lafferty and Sean Toft. He mentioned he’d been given some morphine by a colleague.
“Connor video messaged him and could see Ross was in his bedroom at Cresswell Walk in Corby. He’d moved out of his parents' home 15 days before this because he wanted more independence.
“The following morning Ross didn’t respond to messages sent to him by his two friends. Mr Toft called the police and officers arrived at 6.30pm on the evening of February 15.”
The officers found Ross on his bed, foaming at the mouth and an ambulance was called. His mum and dad also been trying to contact their son. Ross had tragically died.
His friends who gathered at his parents’ home to mourn Ross told what they believed had happened. Police went to Moffat’s home and asked him if he knew of Ross’s death.
The court heard he became ‘visibly upset’ and admitted he’d given Ross liquid morphine.
A post-mortem examination showed that Ross had died of a combination of the effects of taking morphine and cocaine. The origin of the cocaine has never been ascertained.
The court heard that in police interview, Moffat said that Ross had told him he had a toothache and he’d offered him some liquid morphine he had in has bag but told him only to take a little bit.
“But 35 minutes later he came back and asked for more,” said Ms Harrington.
Moffat, of Corby, put the bottle back under a workstation but by the end of the shift he noticed half of the 300ml bottle had gone.
“This suggested Ross had come back and taken more because he (Moffat) had only had a mouthful,” said Ms Harrington.
“He said Ross was ‘a bit wavy’.”
Moffat, who the court heard in mitigation had no previous convictions, refused to tell police where he had got the morphine from, admitting only that he got it from ‘a person’.
Last month Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking said that liquid morphine was illegal unless prescribed and was most often prescribed as an ‘end of life drug’ for the ‘most serious of conditions’. A second prosecutor, Ben Gow, who appeared at further hearing earlier this month, said that the cause of death was the effect of both morphine and cocaine and the morphine alone could not have killed him.
Ellen and Ross Snr struggled to hide their anger at how Moffat could take a class A drug to work "like it was a bottle of Lucozade".
Ellen, who has been unable to return to work, said: "If Moffat had not taken that bottle in, if he hadn't gone to work, if he had got a puncture on the way, Ross would not have died."
Now they are waiting for yet another phone call to tell them to travel for another painful day in court.
Ellen added: "While we are going through this system we cannot grieve for Ross. We haven't even registered him as dead.
"If this was a spinning wheel I would have said stop it now and let me get off. The system is broken.
"I just cannot believe we have to go through another month of waiting for phone calls, nobody letting us know what's going on and waiting for another trip to court.
"We just sit and wait and hope and pray that someone thinks and gives us a call to tell us what is going on."
And Ross Snr, 52, said: "It's the first time I have had anything to do with the justice system. You wouldn't want to rely on it."
The couple, who have been married for 32 years, also criticised Northamptonshire Police for their 'lack of support' and said they had been left to chase details about their son's death.
At a hearing in July Ellen bravely read both her own heartbreaking victim personal statement as well as Ross Snr's.
Her husband’s statement said: “The loss of my son has devastated me. I am struggling to come to terms with Ross’s death.
“I go to the cemetery to get my crying out before I go home."
He added: “Ross’s passing has devastated my family and we’ll never be the same again.”
Ellen’s statement said Ross’s death had left a ‘massive void’ in their family.
She said: “Ross was our life.
“His passing was so senseless. Ross wasn’t at a pub or a festival, he was at work. He should’ve been protected.
“I’ve had to watch my husband crumble before my eyes.
“I can’t live without Ross. I ask him to come and get me every night because I can’t face another day."
Ellen said she had spoken to her son before work on the day of his death and he had seemed his normal bubbly self.
She said: “I thought, what could go so wrong for him to go to sleep and not wake up?
“He was 19, just starting out in life.
“What’s happened doesn’t make sense to me but we have to live with the consequences. We’re both angry at this man for taking our son.
“Ross had everything going for him. He had a great job, a brand new car and a family that loved him. Our family is destroyed and will never be the same.”
Yesterday His Honour Judge Rupert Mayo said he would be demanding a written explanation about how yet another court delay had occurred.
He said: "I am fed up with the way in which counsel clerks treat cases as significant and serious as this.
"For someone [to be] facing charges this serious without representation is just outrageous."
Moffat was granted unconditional bail ahead of a hearing on a date to be fixed within the next month.