No sniffer dogs were being used at the entrance to the Big Day Out music festival where overdose victim Gemma Thoms reportedly swallowed several ecstasy tablets, police say.
Ms Thoms, a 17-year-old trainee hairdresser, died after collapsing in 36-degree heat at the festival, held at Perth's Claremont Showground on Sunday.
Her friends have told police that before entering the venue, she panicked and swallowed three ecstasy tablets she was carrying because she feared the drugs would be detected by police dogs.
NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale said yesterday she had repeatedly warned governments about the likelihood of a death similar to that of Ms Thoms if sniffer dogs continued to be used at such events.
She said a 2006 report by the NSW Ombudsman had concluded the dogs were ineffective.
But West Australian police said MsThoms had nothing to fear as there were no drug detection dogs at the festival, apart from dogs being used by railway police at the showground rail station.
"There may have been a perceived fear of being detected," Inspector Wayne Silver said. "But she certainly did not see any dogs at the entrance to the venue as has been reported.
"The only dogs were being used by rail police at the showground rail station in the forecourt of that.
"Nowhere else were they used at the ground and at no other entrance to the ground.
"Ms Thoms was dropped off by a relative at the main entrance where there were absolutely no detection dogs, nor was she ever in the line waiting to get searched."
Inspector Silver said Ms Thoms was understood to have taken ecstasy before her arrival at the venue, and that her friends had indicated she feared the other tablets she was carrying would be detected.
"But I think we have to shift the focus away from this issue [of drug detection dogs]," Inspector Silver said.
"We seized 145 amphetamine tablets [at the venue that day] ... does that mean other people didn't take too many and that there were no other overdoses?"
Premier Colin Barnett said Ms Thoms's death was "very sad" and he extended his sympathy to her family.
"But the only protection against drugs is not to use them and the police did the right thing in inspecting and trying to detect illicit drugs," Mr Barnett said. "... it is the scourge of the modern society.
"Sure there was all this sort of flower power, let's give it a go in the 1970s. I think now, 30 years on, people are conscious of the real implications of ... of putting toxic chemicals into your body. It kills."
The owner of the hair dressing salon where Ms Thoms worked, Julie Jeffery, said she was a "wonderful girl" who was loved by her workmates and clients.
After leaving school upon completing Year 11 last year, she had shone as an apprentice hairdresser, Ms Jeffery said.
"She is not a druggie, she has just made a terrible mistake," she said.
Many contributions have been made to a group set up for friends of Ms Thoms on the Facebook social networking site.
The group's administrator, Deanne J. Prus, writes, "This beautiful girl made one mistake that cost her her life.
"I don't believe everyone that overdoses are drug addicts and I'm sure her friends and family will confirm that this sweet girl was nothing like that."
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