Heartbroken mum of Derbyshire student who died after taking drugs issues warning to other parents

Joana Burns
Joana Burns

The heartbroken mum of a Derbyshire maths student, who died after taking an ‘MDMA-bomb’ during a final university blow out with friends, has urged every parent to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs.

Joana Burns, aged 22, from Alfreton, died hours after a ‘final night out’ with her university pals before they started new jobs.

Joana Burns and boyfriend Lewis Birch

Joana Burns and boyfriend Lewis Birch

Speaking after a verdict of misadventure was recorded at the inquest into the death, Joana’s mum, Mosca Burns, said: “I would prefer it if nobody took MDMA again because I don’t really think you can assess the risk.

“It’s different every time you take it. It can have a different affect on your body, it’s made in different ways, in different recipes, in different places, by different people, with different ethics.

“So, it’s not worth the risk.”

Mrs Burns has previously said she hopes her daughter, who wanted to be a maths teacher, is remembered more as an inspiration for girls to take up maths rather than as a victim of illegal drugs.

She had attended The Tuesday Club, an event at Sheffield University’s Students’ Union, and swallowed an eighth of a gram of MDMA in the taxi on the way there.

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Joana had created two homemade ‘MDMA bombs’ by splitting the £7 powder into two cigarette wrappers, Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard.

She had taken one before getting to The Foundry and later vomited the other up minutes after taking the second.

The Sheffield Hallam mathematics student was with a group of six who had all taken the same amount – after research on the internet.

But at around 3.30am Joana became unwell and started fitting after complaining she was too hot. She later died in hospital.

Pathological expert Dr Kim Suvarna said: “The young believe they can do as they wish and that they are young and immortal but unfortunately that is not always the case.”

He told the hearing he had recorded the cause of death as ‘drug toxicity (MDMA/MDA)’.

Dr Suvarna said enzymes in the system which break down glucose in the blood were burnt away by the drug ‘causing the body to overheat’.

The group of six university friends and Joana’s boyfriend Lewis Birch had been planning the night out for weeks and had all bought a £7 bag each of MDMA – a quarter of a gram.

One member of the group, Katie Lavin, had bought the ‘brown-coloured substance’ for everyone for the night out on June 6, 2017.

Student Lewis told the inquest: “We knew how much to take and the effect because we had looked online and we had also taken this before.”

He added: “It wasn’t the first time she had taken MDMA – she had done it once or twice before. When taking MDMA you feel really really good, but you get really hot quickly.”

The inquest, at Sheffield Medico-Legal Centre, heard Joana had complained to friend Lauren Noble she was hot. She was sick and then started fitting while the club’s medical team put her in the recovery position.

Recording a conclusion of misadventure, South Yorkshire assistant coroner Abigail Combes said: “This is a really tragic set of circumstances.”