Mum of Derbyshire student Joana Burns who died after taking drugs collects degree certificate in moving ceremony

The mum of an Alfreton student who died after taking drugs to celebrate finishing her university exams collected her degree certificate in a moving ceremony.

Friday, 19th January 2018, 12:49 pm
Updated Friday, 19th January 2018, 12:55 pm
Joana Burns

Joana Burns, aged 22, died following a ‘final fling’ with friends in June 2017 after paying £7 for MDNA - Ecstasy - which caused her to overheat and fall unwell in a university bar.

The Sheffield Hallam University student had just completed an honours degree in Mathematics and was post-humously awarded a 2:1, which her proud mum, Mosca Burns, collected.

Mrs Burns said she hopes her daughter can be remembered for more than illegal drug use.

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Joana Burns and her mum, Mosca

Speaking about her daughter’s ‘passion’ for mathematics, Mrs Burns said she wanted Joana’s legacy to be ‘inspiring girls’.

She said: “I’m sure, knowing Joana, she would be mortified she was defined by a drug death. It is far more fitting that inspiring young girls in maths is her legacy.

“We are taking it day by day, but I do take great pride in Joana’s academic achievements.

“I collected her degree myself where she received a 2.1 degree classification in July. I’d love there to be a national day to celebrate maths and Joana’s legacy.”

Joana Burns and her mum, Mosca

She described Joana as ‘a very clever girl, with a natural talent for maths’.

“Her dissertation was actually on the disparity between girls who had an interest in maths and boys.

“She couldn’t understand why there was such social engineering towards maths being such a boys’ subject. She was quite adamant about it,” she added.

“She thought girls were just as clever as men and just as good at maths if they wanted or were allowed to be.”

A ‘Girls in Maths Day’ held in Joana’s memory was recently held at Sheffield Hallam University and was attended by over 100 schoolgirls.

A similar event is to be held at Easter. Joana had been celebrating the end of her time at university with friends at The Foundry Club, at the University of Sheffield Students’ Union building, on Tuesday, June 6, when she collapsed. In a statement given to the police at the time, a friend said Joana, was not ‘a regular drug user’ and it was a ‘one-off final fling to finish University’.

Mrs Burns, from Alfreton, said that because Joana had taken MDMA, her body had overheated.

Speaking about Joana’s reaction to the drug, she said: “To some people nuts are deadly.

“It doesn’t matter how well one person reacts to it, it might not be safe for somebody else. It could have been anyone of them or it could have been all of them, they all took it.”

Mrs Burns said she was ‘surprised’ how many ‘normal’ people had tried the drug.

She said: “It’s surprising how many perfectly normal sensible people have tried it at some stage.

“The people who are taking these drugs are not the dregs of society which some people judge them to be. It’s a cross section of ‘happy go lucky’ young people, that’s the problem.”

She also spoke about the low cost of drugs.

“The huge problem with these drugs is the cost. It costs £2 a pill I have been told, and the girls spent £7 each that night - that is most certainly cheaper than a ‘night out on the razzle’ as we used to call it,” she said. “For a student, I’m sure the price of these drugs is very attractive, I just don’t know how we are going to fight it.” Breaking down, Mrs Burns said taking drugs was simply ‘not worth the risk’. She added: “It is not worth the devastation it causes, as a family we are still trying to get over our loss.”

An inquest into Joana’s death is expected to take place later this year.