Parents Of Tyrone Teenager Who Took His Own Life Reveal He Was Being Blackmailed By Nigerian Gang
The parents of a Tyrone teenager who took his own life has revealed that he was being blackmailed by a Nigerian gang at the time of his death.
Ronan Hughes (17) was found dead at his home earlier this month and parents Gerard and Teresa Hughes have now spoken out to warn of the role that social media played in his tragic death.
The devastated couple told the Irish News that their "quiet, happy-go-lucky" son had been tricked into sending images on a social networking site after receiving pictures of a girl.
He was then blackmailed by the gang who threatened to send the photos to his friends on Facebook if he didn't give them £3,300.
Despite texting them back to say that he was only 17, the gang continued to threaten him and Ronan confided in his mother about the blackmail three days before he died.
He then went with his family to their local PSNI station but Gerard says that he received a "dismissive" response from the officer on duty.
"I knew Ronan was looking for help and I told him (the officer) that all my son wanted is for these images not to be posted," he said.
"He told us that he couldn't guarantee that. For Ronan, it was totally dismissive. If the police had given Ronan reassurance and said 'we'll contact IT experts, we'll close this down, we'll stop that', Ronan would still be here today. That's why he came to us. He wanted help."
The family returned to the station the next day for a lengthy discussion about the case but did not have any further contact over the next two days.
Ronan then called his mother to tell her that a friend of his had received a message with images but had not clicked on the link.
Concerned about his son's welfare, Mr Hughes rushed home but discovered Ronan's body in a field behind their home.
The family has now warned parents "how naive" they are in relation to social media, saying "there is no point in a parent taking a phone off a child when they don't know what they are doing themselves or how to access the technology themselves".
"We decided to speak out as this is something that could have been prevented. A child with mental illness maybe can't be stopped from taking their own life. But to think that Ronan was living life to the full and then all of a sudden something like this can pop up and take his life...that's why we had to act," said Teresa.
"We want there to be changes so if a child out there is being bullied online they can go to the police or other authorities with their concerns. We don't want another family to go through what we've gone through."