Mum begs Prince Harry not to praise drug related to daughter's death
‘Tell Prince Harry to stop praising the drug that lead to the death of my daughter’ says grief-stricken mother after Duke says hallucinogen ayahuasca helped his mental health
- Michelle Hyatt wrote a five-page letter to King Charles over his son’s comments
- Prince Harry spoke out about use of Class A drug ayhousaca for mental health
- Mrs Hyatt’s daughter Kate killed herself in October 2021 after using the drug
- The retired nurse urged King to intervene over Harry’s ‘irresponsible’ comments
The ayhousaca mother of a woman who died after taking an illegal hallucinogen praised by Prince Harry has begged King Charles to stop his son extolling its effects.
Michelle Hyatt, whose daughter Kate, 32, killed herself after using the Class A drug ayahuasca, said: ‘The King is a parent and I wanted him to know how it felt as a grieving mother. His son’s comments are irresponsible, ill-judged and could lead people down the path to devastation.
‘I am angry and disappointed. The experience Prince Harry described does not correlate with my daughter’s. He has a platform – discussing the use of that drug to help mental health is disgraceful.’
Last Saturday, in a 90-minute pay-per-view online event, Prince Harry opened up about his experience of taking the South American drug, saying it ‘changed me’ and describing it as ‘cleaning the windscreen’ of his troubled mind.
Grief-stricken Mrs Hyatt, a retired nurse, was so distressed by Harry’s praise for ayahuasca – which also features in his memoir, Spare – she wrote a five-page letter to the King. She said: ‘I told him I was writing as a mother to share my experiences of my daughter’s death. I wasn’t attacking the King – he has no responsibility for his son – but Charles is a father, I’m a mother, and I was speaking to him in the context of someone who has lost a child. I wanted the monarch to hear the other side of ayahuasca.
Kate (pictured) killed herself in October 2021. The actress and artist suffered severe psychosis after taking the hallucinogen for what she believed were medicinal reasons.
‘Harry can talk about his own experience but, as he’s such an influential figure, vulnerable people may think it might be all right. In my daughter’s case, it was not.’
She added: ‘Ayahuasca is marketed as plant-based healing but it is no different to buying a bag of heroin on a street corner. With Kate, it made her unrecognisable from the person she was before and contributed to her suicide.’
Kate killed herself in October 2021. The actress and artist suffered severe psychosis after taking the hallucinogen for what she believed were medicinal reasons.
Ayahuasca is a tribal tradition in the Amazon but has a growing following as a therapeutic tool for improving mental health.
The Prince first revealed he had tried it in Spare, published in January. But it was his live-streamed Q&A interview with controversial psychologist Gabor Maté last weekend that scared Mrs Hyatt.
Harry detailed how he began doing ayahuasca ‘recreationally and then started to realise how good it was for me’, before adding that it ‘helped me deal with the traumas and the pains of the past’.
Mrs Hyatt said: ‘That’s what made me write to the King.
‘I said, ‘Dear Sir, I’m writing to express my sadness and disappointment about Prince Harry’s recent comments. I want to tell you a bit about my story, what happened to my daughter and my concerns it could lead to other people being encouraged to try ayahuasca.’ ‘
The Prince first revealed he had tried it in Spare, published in January. But it was his live-streamed Q&A interview with controversial psychologist Gabor Maté last weekend that scared Mrs Hyatt
Mrs Hyatt is keen to stress she is not anti-Royal: ‘In my letter, I also told the King that my grandmother had worked as a maid at Windsor Castle. She was in service for King George VI and the Queen Mother. She cleaned St George’s Chapel and was proud to do so.
‘I wanted to share that snippet of our family history in case he thought I was anti-monarchy. I am not. I am anti-ayahuasca.’
Kate took ayahuasca seeking a cure for what her family believe was long Covid, and to help her overcome a mild depression which was exacerbated by a long, solitary Covid lockdown in San Francisco, where she was completing a master’s degree in fine arts.
When borders reopened and she returned to her family home in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, she sought counselling online. Her therapist, a registered midwife, offered her entry to Britain’s burgeoning ayahuasca subculture.
Kate paid £620 for a three-day retreat at a Tudor farmhouse in Malvern, Worcestershire, attending the secret gathering run by the Hands of Light Academy (HOLA) in June 2021. WhatsApp messages and her online history indicate she took the hallucinogen there. Shortly after she returned, it became clear she was in deep psychosis.
Kate took ayahuasca seeking a cure for what her family believe was long Covid, and to help her overcome a mild depression which was exacerbated by a long, solitary Covid lockdown in San Francisco
READ MORE: Prince Harry opens up about drug use, saying marijuana ‘really helped’ him but cocaine and alcohol was ‘more of a social thing’, and psychedelic drug Ayahuasca ‘helped me deal with the traumas and pains of the past’ in Q&A with Gabor Mate
Prince Harry has admitted using psychedelics – magic mushrooms, psilocybin (the active component of magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca, a plant-based psychedelic from the leaves of a shrub – in an attempt to help him heal from ‘grief’
Kate began to believe she was infected with a parasite and could see yellow worms wriggling through the veins in her arms. She would eat only white food, such as rice and cannellini beans, and she thought she was paralysed, telling her parents she could not move – even while walking around.
She was plagued with headaches and pain throughout her body. Soon she was seeing her GP every fortnight and spent a week in hospital having her physical symptoms investigated via a lumbar puncture and an endoscopy. At the time she was living with her parents, Michelle and her husband Ray, a hospital consultant.
The couple have 80 years of NHS service between them, but even they were unable to cope with the after-effects of ayahuasca on their daughter.
Kate then attempted suicide at home, but failed, before killing herself at a beauty spot where her family loved to walk their two dogs. Coroner Crispin Oliver used the inquest into her death to officially shine a light on the perils of taking hallucinogens. He wrote how Kate ‘had become particularly disturbed over the three to four months prior to her death’ and that her symptoms had ‘worsened significantly’ after her attendance at the Worcestershire retreat.
He added: ‘My concern is that hallucinogenic substances are being dispensed by the Hands of Light Academy to attendees on its courses, potentially and/or actually mentally unwell people, without proper, or any, consideration of the impact they may have.’
The website for the Hands of Light Academy, which appears not to have a physical base, was taken down after the coroner’s report was published.
Kate grew up the middle of three children, in a loving and stable family which supported the artistic streak which was apparent from her earliest years.
‘You could not pigeonhole Kate,’ said Mrs Hyatt. ‘We were all incredibly proud of her. I was a bit anxious when she left for America to do her master’s degree, but you worry about your children when they are only down the road.’
Kate suffered a tough, early dose of Covid and, according to her mother, was ‘miserable’ about the impact of the pandemic on her life and work. But she was not taking any medication and Mrs Hyatt says ‘there were no alarm bells ringing’.
Kate attempted suicide at home, but failed, before killing herself at a beauty spot where her family loved to walk their two dogs
Kate earned her second degree in San Francisco in May 2021. The following month she approached the Hands of Light Academy, where she was promised ‘healing energy’ and ‘healing plants’, and told she may experience her ‘own death and rebirth’. The consequences were catastrophic.
Mrs Hyatt said: ‘She had hallucinations, delusions. Every night she would be screaming and crying. She felt as if she was in extreme pain, nerve pain, and she started eating only white food.
‘She ordered a kilo of garlic and asked me to peel it – I peeled so much it burned my fingers.
‘Even when she came out of hospital she refused to believe there was nothing physically wrong.
‘I would have done anything to make her better. I cared for her 24 hours a day and was in despair.’
After Kate died, the family discovered a vial of amber liquid in her bedroom which they believe to have been ayahuasca, fearing Kate may have been trying to self-medicate. They handed it to West Yorkshire police but have yet to be told if the contents have been identified.
Grief-stricken Mrs Hyatt, a retired nurse, was so distressed by Harry’s praise for ayahuasca – which also features in his memoir, Spare – she wrote a five-page letter to the King
‘Harry can talk about his own experience but, as he’s such an influential figure, vulnerable people may think it might be all right. In my daughter’s case, it was not’, Mrs Hyatt said
What is ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca, also known as caapi, yaje or yage, is a hallucinogenic drink made from tropical plants found in the Amazon.
The brew is made from the leaves of the Psychotria Viridis shrub along with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis Caapi vine, though other plants and ingredients can be added.
The drink has been used for spiritual and religious purposes by Amazonian tribes and is still used for rituals in some places in South America today.
Psychotria Viridis contains DMT, which is a psychedelic substance.
There are several potential benefits to the drug, including improving brain health and psychological wellbeing.
Unpleasant side effects include vomiting, diarrhoea, paranoia and panic and while the effects are usually temporary, they can be very distressing.
The substance remains illegal in many countries including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Kate left notes with her computer and phone passwords in her bedroom to enable her family to wind up her affairs after her death. Emails, bank account details and WhatsApp messages provided evidence of her correspondence with HOLA, which used emojis of a mushroom and a snake to avoid naming the substances they were offering clients.
The family also found desperate messages written in September from Kate to a therapist at HOLA, where she confessed she was in ‘some sort of psychotic break’ and ‘feeling as though my brain was about to explode’. A second HOLA organiser wrote to Kate, telling her: ‘Aspects and parts of you are dying, but you are not dying.’
‘They described it as a shamanic death,’ said Mrs Hyatt.
‘In the last two weeks of her life, Kate said to me, ‘Mum, I have taken things which have messed with my mind.’ I asked her what, but she closed up on me again.’
Mrs Hyatt is still grieving for her daughter, who left instructions for her ashes to be scattered everywhere from Iceland to America.
She and her husband have now moved to Scotland to rebuild their lives. However, they remain determined to seek some kind of justice for Kate by exposing HOLA and by reporting the healthcare professional who connected their daughter to the retreat to the National Midwifery Council.
In a written submission to the coroner, a spokesman for HOLA said: ‘An initial review of our records does not show any student [by the name of Kate Hyatt] as having attended one of our courses. On the said dates you mention, there were no Hands of Light Academy courses running.’
They added that HOLA is a ‘teaching establishment’ and does not dispense hallucinogens to their students, who were ‘screened’ in advance for mental health issues. Nevertheless, the Academy promised to educate staff about ‘hallucinogens and their potential dangers’.
Mrs Hyatt, however, is unmoved. ‘It’s an underworld – a money-making business dressed up as healing.
‘Prince Harry should be more cautious. I don’t know where he took his ayahuasca – but imagine if he had taken it in the same place as Kate?’
Buckingham Palace said last night: ‘We do not comment on private correspondence sent to His Majesty The King.’
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