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Teenager held over TalkTalk cyber raid is out on bail

By Cate McCurry

Published 28/10/2015

The Ballykeel 2 housing estate on the outskirts of Ballymena where armed police swooped in the wake of the cyber attack
The Ballykeel 2 housing estate on the outskirts of Ballymena where armed police swooped in the wake of the cyber attack

The 15-year-old schoolboy held over of one of the largest cyber attacks in UK history was lying low last night after being reunited with his mother following his release from police custody.

Friends said the family have been left frightened by the level of attention they have found themselves under.

The teenager, who we cannot name for legal reasons, was arrested on Monday by police investigating the TalkTalk cyber attack after armed officers swooped on his home in Ballymena.

A close friend and neighbour of the boy's mother explained how the incident left the family "terrified" when six van loads of police officers burst into the house where the teen's two sisters also live.

The family friend, who visited their home yesterday, said the schoolboy's mother was "in a bad way" and added that the officers were heavily armed.

Neighbours described how six police vehicles swooped on the Ballykeel 2 terraced house at around 4.20pm on Monday.

The teenager was arrested and questioned by cyber crime investigators and released on bail on Tuesday morning.

Last week some experts said that one of the theories behind the attack was that it was the work of highly-skilled Islamist jihadists in Russia, following anonymous internet postings claiming responsibility.

However, the teen's arrest has raised questions that it was more of an amateur attack on the giant telecommunications company.

Neither he nor his family were giving any media interviews yesterday.

Speaking at her home, the boy's mother said she was "not interested" in talking to the media. She confirmed the police were at her house on Monday but added: "I am not speaking to journalists about anything. I am not talking to anybody without a solicitor."

There was a fleeting glimpse of the teenager early in the morning when he politely declined to speak to reporters.

The boy is at the centre of the major UK-wide story which saw journalists flying in from England, but he said his mother did not want him giving any interviews or to talk to journalists.

The curtains were pulled in every room in the two storey terraced house and they remained closed for the rest of the day.

The door did not open again but to allow two plain-clothed police officers into the house as well as their pet cat who sat on the window-sill throughout most of the commotion.

Following his arrest a number of media outlets reported the boy's identity.

The PSNI has urged organisations not to name the teen.

A police spokesman said: "Following the arrest of a 16-year-old youth in London by the Metropolitan Police Service, PSNI would take this opportunity to thank the majority of media outlets for their responsible reporting of the cyber attack involving TalkTalk.

"We are aware that some outlets and platforms have identified a 15-year-old youth arrested in County Antrim earlier this week as part of the investigation.

"We would continue to ask all media outlets not to identify this individual.

"Although he is a suspect in the investigation, which is continuing, he is also a juvenile and we would ask that he is not identified.

"Thank you for your consideration and co-operation is this regard."

Ballykeel 2, which is a working-class loyalist area, sits just on the outskirts of Ballymena. Protective neighbours reacted angrily to the media presence in the area and shouted at them to leave.

A post on the teen's Facebook page last year said how he wanted to be a professional video gamer. He said: "I'm a 14-year-old gamer who one day wants to be a professional Call of Duty player."

His mother's friend, who did not want to be named, told the Belfast Telegraph the whole community was in a state of shock. "The family have lived here for about four years and we have been friends with her for years," he said.

"She told us that police burst down the door and they all were there with guns and police outside the house had guns too. She was terrified, about six or seven vans and Scotland Yard were there too. Police were coming in and out of the house and taking items with them. It was full on like a Swat team.

"She's not in a good state of mind. She didn't know anything that was going on.

"The boy is quiet and we get on really well with them and they are nice people.

"It was horrible for them. I know it's a serious offence but storming the home and taking a boy of that age, it was really bad for them."

The investigation is being headed up by the Metropolitan Police cyber crime unit along with officers from the PSNI cyber crime centre and National Crime Agency.

News that the TalkTalk website had been hit by a "significant and sustained cyber attack" broke last week.

The phone and broadband provider, which has over four million UK customers, said banking details and personal information could have been accessed.

A criminal investigation was launched on Thursday.

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