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Mother of ecstasy-death teen calls for legalisation and education


A mother whose teenage daughter died after taking an unusually pure version of ecstasy has called for recreational drugs to be legalised.

Anne-Marie Cockburn said she wanted the death of her 15-year-old daughter Martha Fernback to lead to changes in the law which would create a regulated and safe trade in currently banned substances.

The inquest into the GCSE student’s death last year in an Oxford park heard that she had taken a half-gram pill of ecstasy, the so-called “party” drug, which was 91 per cent pure and induced a fatal heart attack. The average street purity of the Class A drug, also known as MDMA, is 58 per cent.

Ms Cockburn, who held up a poster of her daughter outside the hearing in Oxford’s county hall, said she wanted to meet Home Secretary Theresa May and her Labour shadow Yvette Cooper to discuss her proposals.

In a statement, she said: “It has been 328 days since my precious girl was safely by my side. Martha wanted to get high, she didn’t want to die. No parent wants either but one is more preferable to the other.

“I wish Martha was sitting her GCSEs along with her friends at school right now. I wish the drug education she received had enabled her to make a more safely-informed decision instead of leaving her so vulnerable and in danger.”

She added: “I would like to… start a sensible dialogue for change, from prohibition to strict and responsible regulation of recreational drugs. This will help to safeguard our children and lead to a safer society for us all by putting doctors and pharmacists, not dealers, in control of drugs.”

The ecstasy pill taken by Martha, who was with friends in Oxford’s Hinksey Park when she died on 20 July last year, was supplied by 17-year-old Alex Williams. He was given a community sentence in March after he admitted to a count of possession.

The teenager escaped a prison term after a court heard that he was “consumed by overwhelming guilt” over Martha’s death.

Following his conviction, Ms Cockburn, who has also written a book about her daughter’s life, said she wanted to work with Williams to give drug education talks to young people.

In a recent interview, Ms Cockburn said she wanted to see the teenager make something of his life. She said: “Seeing him in court, one feeling I didn’t have, and have never had, is anger or hatred. I lost everything the day Martha died and I simply couldn’t cope with hating someone. It would eat me up: it would finish me.”

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said: “It is a terrible loss and I think we can only say that it may at least serve as a warning to young people who may take, or think of taking, ecstasy or MDMA. What is clear is that there is no way of knowing what it is made up of or what the purity level is.”