Derbyshire student died after taking drugs in ‘final fling’ after finishing university

editorial image

A popular Derbyshire student died after taking drugs as a ‘final fling’ as she celebrated finishing university with her friends.

Joana Burns aged 22, from Alfreton, died after taking MDMA - a form of Ecstasy - on a night out at The Foundry in the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union building on Glossop Road.

Heartbroken friends told South Yorkshire Police they each paid £7 for the drug before the club night and that Joana fell ill inside the venue.

In a statement given to the force, a friend said Joana, who had just completed a degree in mathematics, was not ‘a regular drug user’.

“It was just supposed to be a one-off final fling to finish university,” she added. Another friend said: “As the end of the semester approached we were all looking forward to the end of term parties and functions, including one at The Tuesday Club at The Foundry. “About two weeks before, the subject of drugs came up for discussion as some of us use recreational drugs, including cannabis and MDMA. Some of my friends wanted MDMA for the night out.” Joana, who worked part time at Marks & Spencer on Fargate in Sheffield city centre, was rushed to hospital by ambulance but could not be saved. Another Sheffield Hallam University student, aged 20, was left critically ill

Another Sheffield Hallam University student, aged 20, was left critically ill after taking MDMA in The Foundry on the same night and remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition. She and a friend bought pills from a man at the club, according to a report prepared by South Yorkshire Police ahead of a review of The Foundry’s licence next month. Police chiefs called for the review following Joana’s death and revealed that on the night she fell ill ‘a large quantity of drugs were seized’ at the venue. Chief Superintendent Shaun Morley’s report reveals that during a visit to The Foundry one week before Joana died, the drug bin at venue was found to be ‘overflowing’ with substances seized over a number of months.

He said: “The drugs bin was overflowing and 98 packages of powder and 36 packages of tablets were recovered from within. “The majority of the packets had 2-3 tablets within them and one packet had 10-15 tablets within it.”

Chf Supt Morley added: “From visits to the premises prior to this incident, officers from the licensing team at South Yorkshire Police have recovered a large quantity of drugs which had been seized by door staff. “It is apparent there is an underlying issue of drugs supply and consumption at the premises.” He said: “South Yorkshire Police have concerns regarding the use of controlled drugs by young persons, particularly students in Sheffield.”

Chief Inspector Shakeel Ahmed, in a separate police report, said he was informed by Foundry supervisor Chris Aucott that on the night Joana died ‘a large amount of drugs had been seized’ by the security team. A 23-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs before being released under investigation. An inquest into Joana’s death is due to be held on a date to be fixed.

Joana’s heartbroken boyfriend is urging other young people to stop using drugs, claiming the death had ripped his life apart.

Lewis Birch, posting on Facebook, described 22-year-old Joana Burns as ‘the most beautiful amazing girlfriend in the world’.

In a heart-wrenching post, he wrote: “I will always love you and you will be in my heart forever. I will never forget you and would give absolutely everything to have you back in my life. “ Urging others not to take drugs, Lewis added: “If anyone is ever thinking of taking any sort of drug - don’t full stop. “It has torn my life apart. I am absolutely crushed right now.”

At Joana’s funeral at City Road Crematorium in Sheffield, mourners were asked to make donations in her memory instead of buying flowers. Lewis said the money will be used ‘to help raise drugs awareness amongst Sheffield students’. Over £1,200 has been donated via an online ‘Just Giving’ page to fund the drug awareness education at Sheffield Hallam University.

The founder of the Just Giving page posted: “Joana’s Mum, Mosca, tells us Joana was named after Joan of Arc, because of her strength and conviction - qualities which Joana also displayed.

“This strength and conviction had recently seen her complete a mathematics degree at Sheffield Hallam University, a subject she loved, and a place where she also met her boyfriend, Lewis.

“Joana was a wonderful young woman with so much to look forward to. She will be missed not only by her family and friends but by everyone who knew her.”

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesman said: “We are extremely saddened by the death of one of our students following a night out in the city and we would like to offer our deepest condolences to the student’s family and friends following this tragic news. “Joana Burns was a very popular student with a bright future ahead of her. We are offering support to Joana’s family, our students and staff. “We are aware that another Sheffield Hallam student remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition and our thoughts are with them and their family at this difficult time. “South Yorkshire Police are investigating the matter and we are working with them to support their investigations.” “Sheffield Hallam University does not condone alcohol and substance misuse in any shape or form. The welfare of our students is our top priority and we have a dedicated team of highly trained staff who are available to offer guidance and support to those who need it, whatever the issue. “We also work very closely with our Students’ Union to deliver regular wellbeing campaigns to ensure our students have access to the right information to keep themselves safe.”