herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Probe over death of young GAA player who took his own life 'after being tricked into posting images online'

Ronan Hughes
Ronan Hughes
Photo: SPORTSFILE

Police have launched an investigation into the death of a teenage boy who was being bullied online.

It is believed Ronan Hughes, 17, from Co Tyrone, took his own life after being duped into posting images on the internet.

Superintendent Mike Baird, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said: "Our enquiries into this tragedy are continuing, however, it is understood the schoolboy took his own life after he had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site."

Ronan, a grammar school pupil and keen GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association) player was found dead in the Coole Road area of Coalisland on Friday.

Parish priest Fr Benny Fee said the close-knit rural community had been left stunned and blamed "faceless individuals" for intimidating the teenager.

Fr Fee said: "He did not take his own life. His life was taken by these faceless people who put the child into a burning building that he felt he could not escape."

It is understood Ronan had told his parents about the cyber-bullying and made a complaint to police.

Fr Fee added: "It is a total and absolute tragedy but it is a different kind of tragedy because there is an element of cyber-crime involved.

"It would frighten any of us how children can be the victim of these faceless individuals. These people had something that they were using as a lever to frighten the child.

"But he had told his parents and they went to the police. It is just so tragic that these faceless people have robbed a family and community of a much loved child."

Scores of tributes have been left on Clonoe community Facebook pages.

His gaelic football team, Clonoe O'Rahilly's said the tragedy had cast a dark shadow.

A statement said: "Ronan was a youth player, having played goalkeeper throughout his short youth career. He was a quiet and modest young lad who was popular among all players and coaches. His death has left a dark shadow hanging over our club."

A funeral service is due to take place tomorrow. St Joseph's Grammar School in Donaghmore said teachers would also be available to speak to parents and pupils.

Meanwhile, the PSNI has issued a warning for young people to stay safe online.

Superintendent Baird said: "Police are continuing to liaise with a number of statutory bodies and community representatives. Officers have spoken to pupils at a school in the area and offered advice regarding safe internet use and any type of virtual interaction including social media sites, chatrooms and through interactive games.

"If anyone has experienced anything of a similar nature or has received any inappropriate images or links, it is important that they contact police or tell a trusted adult. By doing this you will be helping prevent further such incidents. You will not get into trouble.

"We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other. But all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media."

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