herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

US to help secure Facebook data of dead Dublin teen

inquest

a US prosecutor is to seek a search warrant to access two Facebook accounts belonging to an Irish teen who took his own life.

The body of Darren Hughes-Gibson (17) was found in an industrial estate the day after his mother reported him missing.

Elaine Hughes believes that her late son, Darren Hughes-Gibson, may have received threatening messages on his Facebook accounts in the weeks before he died and the messages were deleted following his death.

She has previously told the Dublin coroner she believed her son, who she described as a "happy young man", was being bullied because he was mixed race and had a hearing aid.

Threatening

Text messages from Darren's phone which she submitted to the court were described as "highly inappropriate" with a "threatening undertone" by coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

The inquest into Darren's death was opened in September 2013, but has been adjourned repeatedly since then as gardai attempt to retrieve the Facebook messages. Those efforts were stepped up nine months ago, when a criminal investigation into his death was launched.

In order to access the Facebook accounts, gardai have contacted the US authorities. The US authorities need to be satisfied there is sufficient evidence of a potential crime before Facebook will be asked to hand over the messages.

Updating the coroner on their progress, Detective Inspector Kieran Holohan said gardai recently received confirmation from the Californian prosecutor that an application will be made for a search warrant for both of Darren's Facebook accounts.

The period of time covered by the search warrant will be the two months prior to Darren's death.

There is no indication of exactly when the search warrant will be sought.

"The legal standard is seriously tight over there," said DI Holohan. "Their application will go before the judge, and subject to the view of the court, we may get some information back … Progress is being made, however slow," he said.

Darren's body was found in the Stephenstown Industrial Estate in Balbriggan, north county Dublin, on August 23, 2012. His mother had reported him missing when he failed to return to their home at New Haven Bay in Balbriggan the previous night.

Ms Hughes was in court along with her father and son.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell adjourned the inquest for further mention to November 27.

"It is a slow process, but we are going through it," he told the family.

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