THE mother of a teenager who died after taking Ecstasy is demanding a meeting with the Home Secretary to campaign for “recreational drugs” to be legalised and regulated.

Anne-Marie Cockburn, 43, spoke yesterday following the inquest into the death of her 15-year-old daughter Martha Fernback and said she wanted to meet Theresa May, and other leading politicians, to discuss possible changes to drugs laws.

Martha, from Summertown, died after collapsing at Hinksey Park in South Oxford on July 20 last year.

Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court was told the Cherwell School pupil died following a cardiac arrest two hours after taking 0.5g of crystallised MDMA, known as Ecstasy.

The court heard the drug Martha took was 91 per cent pure – compared to the average street-level purity of 58 per cent.

Pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt, who carried out a post mortem examination, said the cause of death was MDMA toxicity.

He added: “It was a hot day and I cannot discount that this and dehydration could have contributed to the fatal outcome.”

Oxford Mail:

Anne-Marie Cockburn pictured after the inquest 

A friend, who cannot be identified because of her age, told the hearing in a written statement she met Martha that morning.

She said: “We walked and talked and she said to me ‘I think I am going to take it today’.

“I knew she was referring to MDMA as she had texted me and said ‘I think I am going to take it’.

“I knew she had taken it before because I had been with her three times when she had taken the stuff.”

The friend said after Martha took the drug as they walked through the city centre, she noticed Martha was sweating as they headed to Hinksey Park, off Abingdon Road, to meet other friends and they all sat on a bench.

According to the friend’s statement, Martha said she wanted to go swimming at the nearby open air pool to cool down and as she stood up she fell, banging her head on the ground, causing it to bleed.

The friend added: “We moved her back to the bench and she lay down and I could see her lips were going blue and she went really pale.”

Martha was taken by ambulance to hospital where she was pronounced dead an hour after first collapsing.

The inquest heard the person who had supplied the drugs has since been prosecuted.

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 may think of taking MDMA.”

In a statement released after the inquest (see panel), Miss Cockburn said she was calling for strict regulation of recreational drugs, which she described as “the most popular” drugs.

Martha’s father Sean Fernback, 50, also attended the inquest.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “All drug-related deaths are tragic and my sympathy goes to Martha’s mother.

“The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities, help dependent individuals through treatment and wider recovery support, while ensuring law enforcement protects society by stopping the supply.

“It is encouraging that drug use has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1996.

“However, we do not assume that we have nothing to learn from others, which is why we are conducting an international study to examine the approaches other countries are taking on drugs.”


MISS Cockburn issued a statement following the inquest, which 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 of those is preferable to the other.

“I wish Martha was sitting her GCSE’s alongside her friends at school right now.

Oxford Mail:

Martha Fernback

“I wish the drug education she received had enabled her to make a more fully informed decision, instead of leaving her so vulnerable and in danger.

“I would like to meet with Theresa May, Norman Baker and Yvette Cooper 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.”
Miss Cockburn, 43, a marketing consultant, is being backed by Bristol-based drug policy think tank Transform.

She has also written a book called 5,742 Days – the number of days Martha lived.

Since Martha’s death, Miss Cockburn has set up a website, called

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