Mortified parents of boys who posted Oscar Knox abuse plead for public to forgive them
The families of two schoolboys who used "cruel words" following the death of Oscar Knox have pleaded for forgiveness for their teenage sons.
The full apologies were issued after the children – Michael Bunting and Eoin McCluskey – made offensive comments on Twitter soon after the five-year-old died from a rare form of cancer last week.
Police interviewed the pair after the abusive tweets were posted online.
The pair, pupils at St Michael's Grammar in Lurgan, have since apologised to the Knox family, their school, their sports clubs, and their own families.
Eoin's family issued a statement apologising to Oscar's parents, Stephen and Leona.
"We would firstly like to extend our deepest condolences to the Knox family on their loss, and for any undue distress that this has caused them and the wider community," they said.
"We cannot condone what was said and are shocked and saddened by it.
"Our son has accepted full responsibility and is facing consequences of his actions through which we as a family will support him."
Michael, a Portadown FC youth player, was suspended by the Shamrock Park club following his comments.
"I made a severe error of judgment and understand people's anger," he said.
"I'll suffer the consequences of my actions, and again I'm truly sorry."
The teenager's family also issued a statement to the Lurgan Mail.
It said: "As a family, we would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt sorrow at the impact that or son's words/actions have had on so many people, and in particular, of course, the pain and hurt that they must have caused to the Knox family.
"Michael is a child, who has up until now been a good boy, and we are proud to call him our son.
"Therefore we were every bit as shocked, saddened and horrified, just as the rest of society, to see the message that he posted on a social networking site. This action cannot be justified in any way.
"We admit that Michael has done wrong and would like to publicly apologise to the Knox family, who are, we are certain, absolutely heartbroken by the untimely death of their beautiful son Oscar.
"We express our heartfelt condolences to them on their terrible loss.
"We also apologise to all the other people who have been adversely affected by Michael's actions; family, friends, sports clubs and his school have all suffered as a consequence of our son's actions."
Michael's family described his comment as "thoughtless and cruel" and went on to apologise to the wider public, adding that their son was "heartbroken by all the suffering he has caused".
The family have pleaded for people to show their son "love and compassion", and that they hope in time people can "forgive his cruel words".
Oscar's father Stephen has condemned death threats against a Belfast gym trainer over a Facebook post about Oscar that some people interpreted as taking advantage of his death to promote her business.
His son, known as wee Oscar, died last week after a brave battle against the aggressive cancer neuroblastoma. His battle touched the hearts of people around the world.
"Very often young people make some mistakes that are really silly. We live in a world where once shared online it is given a life of its own. I am sure those boys will look back when they are older and be totally mortified by what they said and what they did. Hopefully other young people will learn something from what has happened."
Internet safety expert Jim Gamble