Detectives investigating suspected drugs-related deaths in the south of the county are now focusing on the purity of the substances involved.

Following results of a toxicology report received this morning, (Friday 9 August), Essex Police confirmed that one of the six deaths is not linked to the taking of drugs.

Pending further tests, the death of a man in his 40s in Canvey on Tuesday, 30 July is being treated as a potential medical episode and will be subject to an appropriate HM Coroner’s inquest.

The deaths of two other men and three women, between Sunday, 28 and Tuesday 30 July in Southend, Leigh-on-Sea, Benfleet, Westcliff and Canvey, are believed to be linked to Class A substances.

Based on the test results, the substances are confirmed to be cocaine and heroin.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Baldwin said: “At this stage in our investigation, we are focusing our enquiries around the purity of Class A drugs.

“Following initial tests, we believe that the sad circumstances surrounding these deaths may be connected to the strength of the cocaine and heroin.

“Further tests have been commissioned to find out more about the exact strength of the drugs, and we will expect the results of these in the coming weeks.

"This means we can continue to build a picture around these tragic deaths and hopefully offer some answers to five families – who have shown immense bravery and dignity throughout our investigations.

“We have not had any further reports of deaths in similar circumstances, but we continue to ask people to remain vigilant when taking strong substances, or buying from dealers, they may not be familiar with.

“Our work across the county continues to disrupt the supply of drugs, and Op Raptor South have a proven track record of bringing criminals to justice when they seek to exploit and harm vulnerable members in our communities.

“I would like to thank our partners for their assistance throughout this investigation so far, and the support they’ve been able to offer the community. These include the NHS, Public Health England, Southend and Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups and the partners who have worked alongside us and local authorities to gather intelligence and engage with vulnerable communities.”

Two men, a 36-year-old from London and a 29-year-old from Grays, were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs in connection with the investigation.

They have been released on conditional bail until 22 August.

If you have any information about these deaths or the sale of Class A drugs across the county please call us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Essex Police are re-iterating their message that Class A drugs are dangerous and urge you not to take them at any time.

Anyone who has taken such a substance and feels unwell or concerned to seek urgent medical advice.

Public Health England has issued the following advice:

“We are urging drug users to be extra careful about what they are taking. We strongly advise them not to use alone and to test a small amount first.

“They need to look out for each other and be alert to any signs of an overdose, such as lack of consciousness, shallow or no breathing, ‘snoring’, and blueing of the lips and fingertips.

“They should immediately call for an ambulance and use any available naloxone if someone overdoses on opioids. We strongly advise all dependent drug users to get support from local drug services.

NHS England has issued this advice:

“Anyone who is concerned about a medical problem and isn’t sure what to do, can get help online or over the phone using NHS 111.

“Visit or call 111 from your phone for advice. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“If it is a medical emergency – if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk – call 999.”