When 18-year-old Ellie Rowe died suddenly at a music festival, her mother, Wendy Teasdill was shocked to discover she’d taken ketamine

E llie was the star of our family – the one all our hopes were pinned on. She was so lively and intelligent, she wanted to be a lawyer and would’ve been the first in her generation of the family to go to university. It never crossed my mind to talk to her about drugs, I didn’t think I needed to. She was always such a sensible girl. After finishing school in 2013, Ellie planned on taking a year out to do volunteer work in Nepal. Before going to Nepal, she announced she wanted to go to a music festival a couple of hours away from where we lived. Ellie and her sisters, Iona and Belinda, had been to a couple of music festivals in the past, so the thought of her attending another one didn’t worry me at all, especially as she was going with friends. I hugged Ellie goodbye before she got into the car with her dad, my ex-husband Bradley, on her way to the festival. I was headed off to teach at a yoga camp a few kilometres away, and the next day we also exchanged a couple of mundane messages – Ellie even asked me to order her some more contact lenses.

When 18-year-old Ellie Rowe died suddenly at a music festival, her mother, Wendy Teasdill was shocked to discover she’d taken ketamine Photo Gallery



The worst wait The following evening, I was heading into the sauna after teaching my classes, when I received a message from my youngest daughter, Belinda, to say the police had been at the house, looking for me. I was given a number to phone, and I knew immediately something terrible must have happened. On the phone to an officer, I was told the news I’d dreaded – Ellie had been found unconscious in her tent and paramedics were unable to revive her. My daughter was dead. You’d think you would scream or howl, but you go into shock. I even found myself feeling sorry for the policeman as it was the first time he’d had to break such news. I tried calling Bradley, but couldn’t get an answer as it was so late. The policeman on the phone insisted I wake up some friends to keep me company, and we sat by the fire all night staring into the flames and chanting. It seemed so unreal At 7.30 the next morning, I went straight to Bradley’s. He was so groggy with sleep and went into deep shock.

We phoned our eldest daughter, Iona, and she came to meet us on our way to my house. I just remember hugging and crying in the middle of the street. When we told Belinda, she was inconsolable. None of it seemed real. That afternoon we drove through to the hospital together to see Ellie. I’m glad I got to see her that one last time. The police said they couldn’t yet confirm the cause of death, but there was an indication she had taken ketamine. We later found out Ellie had bought the drug at the festival; apparently it was the third time she’d taken it. I’m told that she was having a great time, and that she’d been singing all afternoon before going back to the tent to take the drug.

Ellie lay on her back and fell unconscious. By the time her friend tried to rouse her, she was cold. People don’t usually die from taking ketamine, so instead of blaming that, I tried to blame myself. Ellie’s tonsils were very swollen when they tried to revive her and, as she had an allergy to ant bites, I worried that I hadn’t made sure she’d packed her antihistamine. I even blamed myself for deciding not to have her tonsils taken out ages ago.

Six months later, the cause of death was confirmed; it was a mixture of ketamine and alcohol. Ellie had snorted one line of ketamine and she’d drunk a few beers, but combined it was enough to kill her. I was shocked – my beautiful, genius girl – how could she have been so stupid? I didn’t even know what ketamine was, or how you’d take it. But now I wonder why I didn’t ever find out? Why didn’t we ever have those conversations? When people say to me, ‘My child would never do that,’ I think, well, neither would mine. Ellie wouldn’t have wanted her name out there as an example of what not to do, but at the same time, she would’ve wanted to help other people. So if any good can come of her death, I want her story to be known. I’d tell parents to keep talking to teenagers – have the conversations I didn’t. Don’t tell them not to do it – that doesn’t work, but make sure they know the facts, so they are aware of the risks. Yes, Ellie was unlucky, but anyone can be unlucky. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen and I don’t want it to happen to another mom.

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