Sunday 26 March 2017

Firefighters find €500,000 in 'head shop' safe

Investigators believe massive blaze was accident

The scene at Nirvana Head Shop on Capel Street, Dublin
The scene at Nirvana Head Shop on Capel Street, Dublin

Jim Cusack and Maeve Sheehan

Almost €500,000 in cash was discovered in a safe by Dublin Fire Brigade in the debris of a burnt-down Capel Street 'head shop', according to garda sources.

It is thought the cash was discovered in a basement of the building which was partly demolished after fire raged through it.

The cash was believed to have been the takings from the lucrative trade in so-called legal highs. The money is being held by gardai for "safe keeping" over the weekend until the banks re-open.

Initial investigations into the fire at the shop selling legal highs in Dublin's Capel Street suggest it was an accident. Jim Bellamy, owner of the shop, called Nirvana, claimed on Friday that the fire was started deliberately as a result of recent publicity about the spread of head shops and the effects the products sold there were having on users' mental health.

He was not available yesterday to comment on the amount of cash recovered from his premises.

Local residents heard what they said was an explosion at six on Friday morning before fire destroyed the head shop and the adjoining sex shop, which is also owned by Mr Bellamy.

Examination of the scene showed no sign of an explosion and it appeared that an inflammable substance in one of the premises had caused the fire.

Mr Bellamy owns another head shop on South William Street in Dublin but staff there yesterday said he would be making no further comment on the matter. "Newspapers are not welcome here," the man said.

Mr Bellamy, speaking on radio at the scene of the fire on Friday, said he believed the fire could have been started deliberately because of the widespread publicity and public sentiment expressed against head shops and the products they sell.

He said: "Somebody has taken the law into their own hands by the disgusting media coverage of the last month or so. We have been tried by the media and found guilty and this is the sentence."

The Government is considering legislation outlawing substances sold legally from head shops, which have sprung up in almost every medium-sized town across the country.

Much of the criticism directed against the shops has resulted from the fact that at least two people have died here from ingesting substances bought legally from the shops. In both cases, the victims had taken 'magic mushrooms'.

In the case of 33-year-old Colm Hodkinson, he jumped from the balcony of an apartment in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 2005, while hallucinating.

The other victim, 24-year-old Brian Collins, from Castlebar, Co Mayo died in 2007 from an acute toxic reaction to the chemical amatoxin contained in the product.

This led Health Minister Mary Harney to ban magic mushrooms, though the other head shop products remain legal. Gardai were due to continue their examination the scene today, and Capel Street was not expected to open until tomorrow.

Sunday Independent

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