HIS father said everybody loved him, and that love shone through in the tributes to Thomas Staniforth.

The young man was a pleasure to be with, said his friends at football club Sheffield Wednesday. He had a heart of gold, said his brother James.

Thomas's senseless, sudden death during a night out with friends shocked York and shattered a family. They are left asking why?

No cause of death has yet been formally established, and an inquest is pending, which, it is to be hoped, will be held as soon as possible. But traces of Ecstasy were found in his body.

Yesterday Miles Massey was cleared of supplying the drug to Thomas. The prosecution offered no evidence at York Crown Court and said it would be wrong to "put the death at his door".

Mr Massey has clearly been hit hard by the death of his friend. Only now can he begin to rebuild his life.

Thomas's family are still struggling to come to terms with their loss. The revelation that he had taken Ecstasy was an added shock, and yesterday his father Gordon spoke of his great disappointment "with the youth culture of today".

It is a feeling many will share. Drugs have become part of young people's lives in a way that no one could have foreseen a few years ago.

Despite the health risks and its illegality, Ecstasy is as normal as alcohol for thousands of youngsters on a night out. This easy-going attitude is mirrored by the State's more relaxed approach to cannabis possession.

Young people have always been quick to experiment, and their elders have always feared for their future. But today, the ready availability of both drink and drugs to a generation given freer rein than any other gives genuine cause for concern.

Mr Staniforth said he hoped other young people will draw a salutary lesson from his son's death about the consequences of taking drugs. That is a sentiment we can only endorse.

Updated: 10:45 Friday, April 05, 2002