Drugs Warning As Major Hampshire Festival Starts

7 August 2014, 06:36 | Updated: 7 August 2014, 06:38

Hampshire Police say they're working to keep this year's Boomtown Fair safe after a teenage volunteer died at the festival last year.

18-year-old Ellie Rowe had taken ketamine. Officers will check for drugs at the event near Winchester and legal highs are banned.

38,000 people will be heading to the Matterley Bowl from 12pm today (Thursday 7 August). The festival runs until Sunday (10 August).

Police say they are working very closely with the organisers and local authority partners to ensure everyone going enjoys the event and gets home safely, and to minimise the impact on the local community.

They're also backing a warning message from Ellie's family. Advice leaflets featuring Ellie's story will be handed out on site during the festival to help bring home the dangers of illegal drugs.

Police commander for Boomtown Fair, Superintendent James Fulton, said:

"Our priority is to make Boomtown a safe event, working alongside the event organisers and other partners.

"We have been faced with some challenges over the years, but I'm confident that Boomtown is committed to running a safe and secure event, that everyone can enjoy.

"We have a full policing operation on site throughout the event including our mobile police office where festival-goers can speak to officers and receive crime prevention advice and kit such as our 'sockies' to help you keep your valuables safe from would-be thieves.

"We have worked alongside Winchester City Council, Hampshire Highways and Boomtown's traffic management organisers to minimise traffic congestion on the roads surrounding the site, although as with any event, traffic on those routes will be heavy especially on the Thursday as people arrive, and Monday as people exit. Please keep following all agencies social media feeds for the latest updates.

"We will be maintaining a robust position on both drugs and legal highs, or new psychoactive substances, all of which are banned from site. If you are found with drugs you will at the very least be ejected from site and barred from returning, and there is a very good chance you will be arrested and prosecuted.

"We strongly endorse the extremely powerful message from the family of Ellie Rowe, which is a stark and desperately sad reminder of the danger of casual drug use, in Ellie's case, ketamine. Even just dabbling in illegal drugs and psychoactive substances can have catastrophic, and in this case, fatal consequences - you might believe you'll be fine, but how do you know? The only way to be certain is not to take any at all."

For more advice and guidance to keep you safe at the festival, follow @FestivalCop on Twitter and visit the Boomtown Fair website.

An inquest heard Ellie Rowe was volunteering as a steward for Oxfam at the event with a friend, Stephanie Peirce, on 8 August 2013 when she snorted a line of ketamine powder having drunk a few cans of Carlsberg lager during the day.

Coroner Sarah Kirby recorded a narrative verdict which stated that Miss Rowe died as a result of alcohol and ketamine toxicity and central nervous system depression having taken ketamine and alcohol.

Speaking after the inquest in February, Miss Rowe's family said they wanted to warn others of the dangers of taking ketamine, especially in combination with alcohol.

Her father, Anthony Rowe, a self-employed businessman and caretaker, said:

"She was very responsible, it's an absolute tragedy, it was one act of stupidity and that can destroy a family.

"This wasn't some major drug use."