Rita Hole sits on a Newquay beach watching her 15-year-old daughter playing in the waves. She takes a photograph as Shakira laughs and dances on the sand — a little girl still in so many ways. It captures a perfect moment; one Rita will cherish, as it is her last image of her youngest daughter alive.
A few days later Shakira and a group of her friends buy a batch of blue triangular tablets. Chillingly, they bear a child-friendly Duplo logo — the Lego toddler’s building block — but they are deadly. According to her friends, Shakira took three of these ecstasy tablets which cost just £2 each. Twelve hours later she was dead; another teenage victim of a drug epidemic that has Britain’s schoolchildren in its grip.
The next photo Rita takes is heartbreaking. It shows Shakira unconscious in her hospital bed, surrounded by a mesh of tubes and wires, slowly dying as her body overheats and her internal organs collapse.
‘I watched the doctors fight to save her for 13 minutes,’ says Rita. ‘I could hear her bones breaking in her chest as they tried to revive her. But it didn’t work.
‘They turned off most of the machines as they could see it was too late. I cradled her head in my arms, telling her how much I loved her. I wanted her to know she wasn’t on her own, I was with her. I was willing her to live, pleading with everything I had.
Shakira Pellow, pictured, died twelve hours after taking three ecstasy tablets which cost just £2 each
The next photo Rita takes is heartbreaking. It shows Shakira unconscious in her hospital bed, surrounded by a mesh of tubes and wires, slowly dying as her body overheats and her internal organs collapse
‘It was 10.15am on Saturday when she died, drenched in my tears as I kissed her face.
‘No mother should have to lose her baby like this. It’s too much to bear.’
Shakira’s death is not an isolated case. She is just one tragic example of a growing trend. Drug deaths are rising, and the victims are getting younger. More schoolchildren than ever are gambling with their lives by taking illegal substances.
An NHS report published earlier this year into drug use among pupils reveals that more than one in ten 11-year-olds has taken recreational drugs, rising to more than a third of 15-year-olds.
Meanwhile, in 2016, almost a quarter of UK school pupils admitted to taking drugs — compared to 15 per cent in 2014. Almost half said they had bought them from a friend of the same age.
Last month, two drug dealers, Craig Banks, 40 and Dominic Evans, 21, were jailed by Liverpool Crown Court for selling ecstasy pills to schoolchildren through social media sites Facebook and Snapchat. Children then sold the drugs on to their classmates, seven of whom were hospitalised.
Just this week, video footage emerged online of pupils as young as 12 snorting white powder at a school in Sunderland, while in other schools in the New Forest, Hampshire and Taunton, Somerset, teachers have resorted to sending in sniffer dogs to search for drugs.
At the same time, the number of children dying after taking drugs — primarily ecstasy or MDMA to give it its chemical name — has reached a record high.
Shakira died a week ago today, a few days after Reece Murphy, 16, died from taking MDMA after finishing his GCSEs in Dorchester, Dorset. On June 23, showjumper Hannah Bragg, 15, from Tavistock, Devon, died after taking the Class A substance while also out celebrating the end of her exams.
On June 23, showjumper Hannah Bragg, 15, from Tavistock, Devon, died after taking the Class A substance while also out celebrating the end of her exams
In May, Joshua Connolly-Teale, 16, died after taking ecstasy on a camping trip with friends in Rochdale, Greater Manchester during a break from revising for his exams
In May, Joshua Connolly-Teale, 16, died after taking ecstasy on a camping trip with friends in Rochdale, Greater Manchester during a break from revising for his exams. Luke Pennington, 14, died after taking the synthetic drug Spice during a sleepover in March at a friend’s house in Stockport, Cheshire.
The tragic list goes on — a roll call of promising, and so very young, lives wasted.
It is now 23 years since the family of A-level student Leah Betts released the harrowing image of her on a life-support machine as she lay dying after taking a single ecstasy tablet on her 18th birthday.
But as Shakir