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Friday 22 September 2017

'Online choking game to blame for Conor's death', says heartbroken father

Greg Wilmot and his son Ross holding photographs of 13-year-old Conor
Greg Wilmot and his son Ross holding photographs of 13-year-old Conor

The grieving dad of a 13-year old schoolboy has spoken of how his son died because of a "stupid teenage accident".

Greg Wilmot said he was "absolutely certain" that his son, Conor, did not commit suicide.

Mr Wilmot dismissed reports that Conor intentionally took his own life because he was being bullied at school, or that his death last week was in some way connected to the online "Blue Whale" suicide challenge game.

Speaking from the family home, four miles from the east Co Clare village of Sixmilebridge, Mr Wilmot said he is fairly sure that Conor died as a result of a "choking game".

He said that such games have seen a resurgence due to the internet and he believes Conor came across it online.

"For all we know it wasn't the first time Conor did it and this time he didn't get away with it," he said.

"The gardai have taken away Conor's phone and that will show his search history and that will tell us a story."

Achiever

Mr Wilmot said gardai have also taken a laptop Conor had access to away for examination from their home.

"I bet you they will find something to do with a choking game on his phone," the devastated father said.

Mr Wilmot said his son fits the profile of someone who would have got involved in such a game.

"High achievers often fall prey to this," he said.

Yesterday, neighbours and friends were at the house comforting Greg and his wife, Irina, over the loss of their beloved Conor. Among the items brought to their home were sandwiches and cakes, all piled high from those rallying to support the Wilmots.

Conor is also survived by 21-year old sister Melanie and 10-year old brother Ross.

The family has been preparing for Conor's funeral Mass, which will take place in Sixmilebridge today.

Mr Wilmot explained that his certainty about Conor not intentionally taking his own life was not based on speculation over his mental state.

"I found him and it is based around the position I found him in," he said.

"It was an accident gone wrong and not an intentional act to kill himself.

"People need to know that because it makes a massive difference to know it was a stupid teenage accident gone wrong rather than him being unhappy or whatever," he added.

The Blue Whale suicide challenge has reportedly been linked to 130 teen deaths in Russia.

As part of the sick internet game, vulnerable teens are goaded into taking their own lives following a series of instructions from online manipulators.

"It is nothing to do with Blue Whale. It is not a suicide thing," Mr Wilmot said.

Conor's father added that the circumstances of his son's death didn't match with children who have died from Blue Whale.

"Blue Whale is not consistent with what I found," he said.

"All of us, when we were teenagers, did some stupid, stupid things, which could have gone wrong and none of us would be walking around, and I think it was one of those stupid, stupid things that he decided to do that just went wrong," he said.

A former tennis pro, Mr Wilmot described Conor as "brilliant" and very popular with his classmates.

He said his son was a "quirky" child who liked Dr Who and professional wrestling.

"He never missed a day at school and was really enjoying playing rugby for St Senan's," he said.

"He was playing No 8 and had a God-given skill."

A computer programmer with a masters in philosophy, the Australian-born father said the two had booked tickets to travel to Paris in June to see some of Conor's favour bands - including Green Day and Linkin Park.

Mr Wilmot said that, when he found Conor on land behind their home last Thursday night, his son didn't have a pulse and his hands were cold.

Guilt

Mr Wilmot said he is trained to provide CPR and gave his son the first responder treatment until paramedics arrived.

They continued to try to resuscitate Conor.

"I called the emergency services. I didn't panic and just went into 'doing' mode," Mr Wilmot said.

"No one could have done more to save him."

Mr Wilmot said there was nothing they could have done to stop him going out of the house and down on to the land.

"I am not riddled with guilt over it. You can't lock the doors," he said. "It is not like we could have minded him more.

"Short of putting him under lock and key, there is nothing we could have done."

Mr Wilmot placed some of the blame for Conor's death with young people's current online culture.

"The problem is the internet. It is their whole life for teens. The first thing they do when waking up is look at the smartphone and the last thing they do at night is look at the smartphone," he said.

"It is a misguided idea and a fantasy that parents can restrict access to the internet for teenagers because they will always find a way around it," he added.

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