Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Mother targets suicide websites ban

Caroline Beasley-Murray is overseeing an inquest into the death of Ayden Keenan-Olsen, 14

A mother has called for suicide websites to be banned after an inquest heard her son researched how to take his own life on the internet after years of bullying.

Ayden Keenan-Olson, 14, was found dead in his bed by his father, Tim Olson, at the family home in Colchester, Essex, at 7.20am on March 14.

He had taken an overdose of prescription drugs and left two suicide notes outlining the homophobic and racist bullying he had experienced at the town's Philip Morant School, an inquest in Chelmsford heard.

After his death, Ayden's mother, author and prominent child abuse campaigner Shy Keenan, said he had been "bullied to death".

A police investigation found that, in the month leading up to his death, Ayden had bypassed settings on his computer to research suicide methods on the internet.

Mrs Keenan told the inquest: "My job is to protect kids online but I could not keep my own son safe."

Afterwards, she said she and fellow campaigner Dr Sara Payne would lobby for a new law to safeguard children online.

Saying she hoped to meet with Google bosses to discuss the issue, Mrs Keenan added: "We have to change the laws in this country to protect children.

"We must remove suicide websites from the internet - it's got to happen. We can't have young people taking their own lives whenever they face problems or difficulties."

Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded that Ayden's death was the result of suicide.

Mrs Beasley-Murray said it was not her job to attribute blame and she made no finding regarding bullying or the school's conduct.

Referring to suicide websites, she said: "The court regrets the influence that such sites have on young people."

The inquest heard Ayden had attempted to take his own life six months earlier and the family believe he took prescription drugs from home and hid them at school.

The school's headteacher confirmed Ayden reported up to 20 incidents of bullying since joining the school.

Mrs Keenan, who was escorted by her husband and Dr Payne, told the hearing her son had been bullied for several years and previously attempted to take his life in October last year.

Breaking down in tears during her evidence, she said her son had been targeted with violence, abuse and malicious allegations because fellow pupils believed he was gay and because he had part-Japanese ethnicity.

Shortly before Christmas he told his family he thought he was gay.

Mrs Keenan said: "He said he was gay and had found somebody he thought he loved but it was not reciprocated. We didn't care, we just loved him whatever.

"After Christmas it was like talking to a different boy - since he was able to say out loud to people that he was gay."

She described Ayden as a sensitive child who had planned to start his own anti-bullying campaign. He was a keen musician and idolised television presenter Gok Wan.

"People would call him Gok as a compliment," she said. "He tried very hard to look like him."

Police found Ayden's bedroom littered with medication packaging alongside an empty bottle of red wine.

His laptop search history showed he had researched how to commit suicide and how to write a suicide note.

The family had blocked inappropriate websites from the computer but he found a way of bypassing this, the inquest heard.

Since his earlier suicide attempt, the family had kept medication locked away but it is thought he retained some the previous occasion.

Giving evidence, acting headteacher Robert James defended the school's policies for dealing with bullying. "As a school, our first priority is to make sure our students are safe," Mr James said.

He said Ayden reported bullying on between 10 and 20 occasions since starting at the school in 2010.

After the inquest, Mr James said: "We all wish that Ayden was still with us and remain desperately saddened by his loss.

"We very much share the coroner's concerns about the influence of suicide sites on impressionable young people.

"The school has been addressing the issue of internet safety for a number of years with a range of assemblies and lessons and we will now also be working with parents to educate them on the dangers."

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