Marli Cartmer-Congiu had finished her HSC and had planned a gap year before studying at uni when she made a one-off, fatal mistake at a mate’s apartment.
Heartbroken family and friends of the 18-year-old Brigidine College graduate, from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, were informed of her death after she took GHB — also known as liquid ecstasy or fantasy — at a party in January.
Her friends said she had never taken the drug before, and she had paid for a “one-off” mistake that had cost her everything.
Now, her devastated father, Enzo Congiu, has spoken out over his daughter’s tragic death and issued a strong warning on the dangers of drugs.
“To put it simply, you can’t watch your children 24/7, no matter how well you raise them and trust them. This can happen to anyone,” he wrote in Connect, a Catholic school newsletter.
“Most people get to learn from their mistakes, but Marli didn’t have that opportunity.
“She was 18, not a drinker and had no real interest in drugs. We spoke about them often, and she knew the risks.”
The last time Mr Congiu saw his daughter was over the Australia Day long weekend when he dropped her off at her part-time job at a takeaway restaurant in Mascot.
He said he told her to “stay safe” as she got out of the car, and the last words she told him were “I love you”.
“We are all at a loss over what’s happened, it was one of those stupid things teenagers do and has left us all completely heartbroken,” he continued in the newsletter.
‘THANK YOU FOR DOING LIFE WITH ME’
The beloved student had planned to take a gap year to travel and work in her father’s hair salon after completing her HSC last year.
After that, she wanted to become a nurse and study at the Australian Catholic University.
However, a NSW Police spokeswoman said emergency services were called to a home on Grandstand Parade, Zetland on January 28 and found the 18-year-old “unresponsive”.
That morning, Ms Cartmer-Congiu’s mother Kate screamed to wake up her husband when she found out her daughter had been taken to hospital.
At Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, they found out she had irreversible brain damage as oxygen had been cut off from her brain.
She died at 1.30pm on Sunday, January 28.
Reacting to the news, her boyfriend Gully Thomas took to Facebook to express his grief in an emotional tribute.
“As hard as this is, I just want to say thankyou for doing life with me,” he wrote. “I know you didn’t mean for this to happen. I wouldn’t be the same person if it wasn’t for you.
“Every time I saw you I was just so happy and u snuggled me with cuddles and kisses. I will miss you soo much and will be thinking of you every day.
“You were soo beautiful, happy, fun, crazy, caring and just the most amazing girl to do life with. I have had so many memories with you that I will never forget.
“I know you are in heaven and I can’t wait to see you again one day. We all will miss you soo much. We will always be the dream team and I will never forget you. I love you soo much.”
WHAT IS GHB?
According to ReachOut Australia, GHB was originally developed as an anaesthetic but was dropped after a few years because of the unwanted side effects.
Usually sold in small bottles or capsules, people take it by the capful — and its effects can last a full day.
“If too much GHB is taken it can cause you to lose consciousness or go into a coma. The difference in the amount needed to give you a hit or cause you to pass out can be as little as half a capful,” the ReachOut Australia website states.
“As with all illegal (therefore unregulated) drugs, it is hard to determine the potency of any batch. This makes it harder to tell how much would cause an adverse reaction.”
Ms Cartmer-Congiu’s death came after a horrific summer of drug-related deaths at music festivals in NSW.
A New South Wales coroner is examining the deaths of five young people — Diana Nguyen, Joseph Nguyen Binh Pham, Callum Brosnan, Joshua Gerard Tam and Alexandra Ross-King — at festivals since mid-September.