Friend faces jail for supplying drug to Derbyshire student Joana Burns

Joana Burns
Joana Burns

A woman faces jail for supplying a drug to an Alfreton woman who later died on a night out.

Joana Burns, aged 22, died after taking £7 worth of ecstasy, also known as MDMA, as a ‘final fling’ to celebrate finishing her maths degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

She fell ill during a night out at the University of Sheffield’s students’ union in June last year and later died.

An inquest into her death in May recorded a verdict of misadventure and today those involved in supplying Joana with the drug pleaded guilty to their role.

Her friend Katherine Lavin, 21, of Kentmore Close, Stockport, admitted supplying MDMA to Joana and possessing cannabis. And former student, Benjamin Williams, 25, of Melbourne Road, Crookes, Sheffield, admitted supplying MDMA to Lavin, who then passed it on to Joana.

Both have been told that prison sentences are a possibility when they are sentenced on October 12.

Bailing the pair, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, who adjourned the case for pre-sentence reports, said: “These are serious matters. All sentencing options remain open and that includes being sent to prison.”

He added: “Please read nothing into into the fact that pre-sentence reports are required and please read nothing into the fact you are being given bail.”

The earlier inquest into Joana’s death heard that she was was with a group of friends who all agreed to take the drug as they went out for a ‘final fling’ to celebrate finishing their courses.

Lavin bought the ecstasy in the form of a powder which the students each then made into ‘bombs’ using cigarette paper, Sheffield Coroner’s Court was told.

Joana’s boyfriend, Lewis Birch, told the hearing how she had taken the ecstasy willingly and he thought it was probably the third time she had taken drugs.

He said she took one ‘bomb’ before she went into the students’ union building on June 6, last year.

She then took another in the early hours of the morning but witnesses said she vomited that one straight back up before she started fitting and was taken to hospital. None of the other students were affected like Joana.

Pathologist Kim Suvarna told the inquest the MDMA probably reacted with enzymes in her body to cause it to overheat.

He said: “There’s no such thing as a safe drug, particularly with this kind of psychoactive substance.

“The young tend to believe they can do things they wish because they are young and immortal.

“Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply.”

Joana’s mother, Mosca Burns, attended Tuesday’s court hearing.

In May she warned of the dangers of taking ecstasy, saying: “It’s not worth the risk.”

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