Detectives investigating suspected drugs-related deaths in the south of the county have revealed their investigation is focused on the the purity of the substances involved.

These substances have now been identified as cocaine and heroin.

The deaths of two men and three women, between 28 and 30 July in Southend, Leigh, Benfleet, Westcliff and Canvey, are believed to be linked to Class A substances, which - based on the test results police have now received - are cocaine and heroin. 

Ch Supt 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 August 22.

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

Police are re-iterating their message that Class A drugs are dangerous and the force urge you not to take them at any time, but particularly not at the moment.

Police continue to advise anyone who has taken such a substance and feels unwell or concerned to seek urgent medical advice.

Following results of a toxicology report that police received this morning, Friday August 9, the force can now confirm that one of the six deaths - that of 42-year-old Steven Burdett from Canvey - is not linked to the taking of drugs.

Pending further tests, his death is being treated as a potential medical episode and will be subject to an appropriate HM Coroner’s inquest.