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Shadow of death that stalks a lost generation.

IT should be an idyllic spot to live. Pretty green hills and the River Leven winding its way through leafy banks.

But a dark shadow has fallen over the Dunbartonshire towns of Renton and Bonhill...

It's the shadow of drugs - and it haunts a whole lost generation of these once proud communities. It was under this shadow that 14-year-old Caroline Glachan lived... AND DIED.

Two weeks ago Caroline was found murdered, her body lying in the River Leven, hidden beneath shrubbery.

And if her brutal death was shocking, what has emerged in the aftermath will send shivers up the spine of all who care about modern Scotland.

For her murder has uncovered the terrible truth about the drugs horror which blights this area.

The Vale of Leven has become the Valley of the Smackheads.

Caroline, it appears, smoked heroin. That a 14-year-old should dabble in drugs is stunning in itself.

What is even more appalling is that she was not unusual. Most of her generation in the Vale of Leven seem to be in the grip of a heroin epidemic.

Just take a walk, if you dare, to the place that locals in Renton call Smackhead Close.

The floor is littered with silver foil, a trail of it leads from one landing to the next.

For its here in Smackhead Close that many of Renton's young folk spend their evenings chasing the dragon...

In plain language, they are smoking heroin. But drops of blood on the floor indicate that some are now injecting the drug.

No-one will say if Caroline was a regular in such places. But she was certainly familiar with this nether world.

Marion O'Neill still lives in Smackhead Close. All her neighbours have moved to new flats on the other side of town and she has been fighting a lone, daily battle against the drug addicts.

She has gained temporary peace because a new, reinforced front door to the close is kept locked and Marion has the key.

But she says: "It's only a matter of time till they break down the door. They want to take this place over.

"The council fitted the new door, then the kids tried to get in the back of the building with a ladder.

"It not just the older kids, it's their young brothers and sisters as well. Some come straight from school to smoke.

"A few can turn nasty and I've had needles waved in my face."

A BAG of impure heroin costs just pounds 10 on street corners in Renton. They say it is even available at the school gates.

There are stories that children wanting Ecstasy or temazepam simply form an orderly queue outside a dealer's home.

That Renton has come to this is hard for some locals to take. They say it was always a hard-drinking, hard-living place which survived on the textile and shipbuilding industries. Both of these have gone now and with them Renton's sense of purpose seems to have disappeared as well.

Councillor Duncan Mills, social work convener with West Dumbartonshire Council, said : "I grew up in Renton and it was a hard community.

"But people are now afraid. If you report anything to the police, you'll suffer for it."

Bonhill's Church of Scotland minister, the Rev Ian Miller, is also pessimistic.

"The fundamental problem is that we have a generation of teenagers who have no hope of anything," he said

ON these bleak streets, where unemployment nudges 20 per cent, a mother glances at a group of youngsters.

She says: "I wonder if some of them haven't just made up their minds that they're not going to get much out of life anyway.

"Smack is what they live for. They do it for excitement, for something to do. There are few kids round here who aren't involved.

"It's as if they've decided to make their lives as exciting as possible... and perhaps as short as possible."

SOMEHOW, IT'S HARD TO DISAGREE.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Macleod, Angus
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 8, 1996
Words:659
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