Traces of morphine found in model's hair

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2006, 12:00am

But chemist unable to say if Annie Pang died of an overdose

Morphine traces found in the hair of model Annie Pang Chor-ying indicated she had taken drugs at least five days before her death but it could not be ascertained that she died of an overdose, a forensic scientist said yesterday.

Senior chemist Lee Chau-wing told an inquest into Pang's death that he had carried out a test for drugs and poison on a hair sample shortly after Pang's skeleton was discovered in a Yau Ma Tei flat on October 7, 1999.

The flat was controlled by the firm of John Fang Meng-sang, brother of former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

Mr Lee said he found traces of morphine in the hair sample obtained from the remains, which implied Pang had taken morphine or heroin at least five days, or even one to two years, before her death.

He explained it would take five days for the drugged portion of the hair to grow out of the skull after the drug was carried by blood to the hair cells in the scalp.

Mr Lee believed that if Pang had taken drugs in the five days before her death, the drug could only be detected in a sample of the cells in the scalp.

But he said 'the morphine could already have been weathered off' during decomposition of Pang's body since her death in 1995.

Mr Lee told coroner's officer Dee Crebbin that he would not be surprised if an intake of heroin in 1994 could be detected in 1995.

Ms Crebbin had referred to earlier evidence that according to a medical record at the Yau Ma Tei Psychiatric Centre, Pang had taken heroin in December 1994.

Lee Yuk-tong, of Prince of Wales Hospital, told the court Pang was admitted to the hospital on October 25, 1994, because of an epileptic fit. '[Pang] had stopped taking medication six months before she was admitted,' he said. After her admission, she had asked to be discharged against medical advice.

Dr Lee said Pang was known to have suffered mild epilepsy since she was 19 and he believed she had convulsions in the months she had stopped taking medication.

The court heard earlier that Pang took 40 to 50 tablets of midazolam in one go. It also heard packets of pills were seized from the flat where her skeleton was found.

Dr Lee said midazolam could help suppress epilepsy '[but] 40 to 50 tablets seemed to be too much' and could 'kill a normal person'.

The inquest before Coroner Colin Mackintosh and five jurors continues today.