A 40-year-old British woman blames a ‘toxic’ bracelet she bought on eBay for ruining her life.
During a two year period, Jo Wollacott, from Bridport, Dorset, suffered abscesses, hives and hallucinations; she lost her boyfriend, her job and her home and was even sectioned under the mental health act.
Miss Wollacott thought her terrible time was the result of back luck, until she discovered a bracelet she’d been wearing contained a dangerous toxin.
The mother-of-two is actually lucky to be alive. The bracelet contained a banned substance called abrin, which is prohibited under the Terrorism Act because just three micrograms of the drug could kill if swallowed.
Incredibly, it’s 75 times more deadly than ricin poison.
Miss Wollacott bought a batch of the deadly red-and-black ‘love’ bracelets for just £1 each from internet auction site eBay in April 2010.
She put one around her wrist, kept another and sold the rest.
The mosaic maker, who was living with her partner and children, Shirelle, aged 22, and Dagan, seven, started noticing problems as soon as they arrived.
She said: ‘A few weeks later I had a really big abscess in my mouth. Then about one month after that I got hives all over my body.
‘I was being physically sick throughout the summer – suffering diarrhoea and vomiting – but I just put it down to having a bad bug.
‘Then my life started to spiral out of control.’
She split up with her boyfriend in July 2010 and claimed the bracelet had started to put her in an hallucinogenic-like state.
A few months later she ended up quitting her mosaic design business after missing so many days through illness.
Miss Wollacott then got into debt and was forced to sell her family home in Lyme Regis, eventually moving to a smaller home in nearby Bridport.
She also had to sell her Ford Fiesta.
Her mental health deteriorated and things came to a head in December 2010 when she was sectioned in the Forston Clinic in Dorchester.
She said: ‘I was in hospital for a few days with hallucinations – I did not know what was going on.
‘Doctors could not work out what was wrong with me – they did not know what medication to put me on. They thought I had been on drugs, but all my tests were negative.
‘Thinking about it now, the effect of the beans on the bracelet probably would have been the same as being on drugs.’
Miss Wollacott was released from the clinic after nine days but continued to suffer problems throughout most of 2011 and was briefly sectioned again in October.
At that point the mum had lost 22 beads off the bracelet and had attached it onto her house keys.
By November last year she finally decided to put the beaded item away in a bedside jewellery box – sparking a transformation in her life.
Since then her mental health has improved, she has stopped feeling sick, bought a new car and has now begun a new career as a toymaker.
But Miss Wollacott did not discover her woes were down to the bracelet – until son Dagan bought a letter home from school in December warning of the dangers.
She said: ‘The letter had a picture of my bracelet on. When I got the warning letter I came home and got the bracelet and realised how long I’d been wearing it for.
‘I couldn’t believe it. When I found out hallucinations were part of the side affects of the bead poisoning I started to piece things together.
‘My life is a lot better now and I am 99 per cent certain it is down to me not wearing the bracelet.’
I feel like I have lot two years of my life to this bracelet.
‘It has been a nightmare. Everybody around me thought my life was just spiralling out of control because I was going through a stressful time.
‘But now I realise that my problems started when I bought this bracelet. I am now finally trying to get my life back together.’
She now keeps the bracelets in a sealed box in her home and is warning others about the dangers.
The Jequirity bean, also known as the abrus precatorius, originates from Peru and can cause serious sickness or even death.
In December last year the Eden Project, in Cornwall, had to recall all of its bracelets – after selling them in its gift shop for a year.
A spokesman from the Health Protection Agency said: ‘Seeds from abrus precatorius contain the poison abrin which is very toxic.
‘Ingestion of any quantity of chewed, crushed or drilled seeds should be regarded seriously because, if fully absorbed, even small amounts of abrin can be fatal.
‘Anyone who is suspected of ingesting seeds from this plant should seek medical advice immediately.’