New chapter offers further insight into Martha’s story

The Oxford Times: Anne-Marie Cockburn Anne-Marie Cockburn

TOURISTS, commuters and shoppers will be handed the updated story of teenager Martha Fernback, who died from a drug overdose, to mark the anniversary of her death.

Martha, 15, a Cherwell School pupil from Summertown, Oxford, died after collapsing in Hinksey Park on July 20 last year.

She had a heart attack two hours after taking half a gram of crystallised MDMA – the drug Ecstasy.

Following Martha’s death, her mother Anne-Marie Cockburn, wrote a book entitled 5,742 Days: A Mother’s Journey Through Loss, with the title marking Martha’s short life.

Miss Cockburn, 43, said: “The updated version of the book is with the publishers and will be ready for the anniversary. Copies will be handed out around Oxford and on the London Underground.”

On Saturday, the day before the anniversary, books will be left in restaurants, cafes, museums and other public places in Oxford. There will also be a public picnic on Saturday, from 12.30pm at Hinksey Lake in the park.

Miss Cockburn has added a new chapter, to include details about the court case involving the youth who supplied the drug, and her public forgiveness of him.

It also includes Miss Cockburn’s view that recreational drugs should be legalised and regulated, a stance she made public at the inquest into Martha’s death at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court last month.

She has called for meetings with Home Secretary Theresa May, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker.

Miss Cockburn added: “I haven’t yet heard from Theresa May’s office but I will keep on campaigning because I don’t think prohibition is working – a guy died at Glastonbury and he was supposed to have taken ketamine.

“I don’t fear meeting Theresa May or making MPs uncomfortable because standing by your child’s grave is a very uncomfortable position for a parent to be in.

“Modern society wants to take recreational drugs but if drugs were regulated they would be safer.

“MPs hide behind the barrier of prohibition, but what I am proposing will save lives.

“Strict and responsible regulation of recreational drugs is vital.

“Had Martha been able to access drugs that had been legally produced and labelled accordingly, she would have been able to make a more informed decision.

“In fact, I’d go so far as to say that she might still be alive.”

Yvette Cooper’s office has issued a statement saying she is willing to meet Miss Cockburn.

At the inquest on June 12, coroner Darren Salter recorded a verdict of accidental death. The cause of death was MDMA toxicity.

Miss Cockburn has set up the site whatmarthadidnext.org to help safeguard the lives of young people.

A parent's tale

The new chapter in the book is called Bringing You Up To Date.

In it, Miss Cockburn writes: “Martha was a normal teenager – there is no story behind the story.

“I knew she had started to dabble with drugs and was early on in that phase. I felt helpless as I didn’t feel equipped to address this subject with her as I knew very little. When I sat down to talk to her about it she was almost blase about it.

“This terrified me as I could see she was desensitised to the dangers. I went into her school and did what I could to help her to see sense, but young people these days aren’t as easily scared as my generation was.”

Miss Cockburn’s book has been published by Oxford-based publisher Infinite Ideas, priced £9.99. Ten per cent of proceeds from each book sold will be donated to the What Martha Did Next fund, a charitable trust managed by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.

The fund will be used to raise awareness of what happened to Martha and to prevent other people from succumbing to the same dangers.

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