Schoolboy, 15, bullied to death by trolls on the internet: friends say vile posts drove him to despair
Friends say Joshua Unsworth was hounded by internet trollsThe 15-year-old was found dead behind his home in LancashireSchool says staff and pupils are 'shocked and upset'
14:40 GMT, 7 April 2013
01:02 GMT, 8 April 2013
Victim: Joshua Unsworth, 15, was found hanged after allegedly being bullied on social media sites
A schoolboy found hanged in his parents’ garden had complained of cyber-bullying on a notorious social networking site, it has emerged.
Josh Unsworth, 15, had endured months of abusive messages on his profile on Ask.fm, which has been described by child safety experts as a ‘stalker’s paradise’.
At one point his father Gary, 46, apparently took over the page, threatening to report the abusers to police. Josh himself wrote: ‘Last time I checked, cyber-bullying and “trolling” were a criminal offence.’
Ask.fm has been heavily criticised by anti-bullying charities because it allows users to post anonymous comments or questions – often of a sexual or insulting nature – on the pages of children as young as 13.
It is not covered by British online safety regulations as it is based in Latvia.
An investigation into Josh’s death is at an early stage, and police who have spoken to his family say they have not been made aware he had problems with bullies.
Nevertheless, friends have taken to Facebook to blame bullies for the tragedy.
One wrote: ‘R.I.P Josh Unsworth, we’ll forever remember you! Bullied to death.’ Another said: ‘I hope your bullies can’t sleep at night knowing what they did to you.’
Josh, whose father is sales director of a haulage firm, attended St Cecilia’s Roman Catholic High School in Longridge, Lancashire.
His body was found in the garden of the family’s stone-built converted farmhouse in a nearby village last Thursday morning.
The headteacher of Joshua's school asked parents to make children aware of the effects of cyber-bullying
His parents, Gary and Michelle, both 46, yesterday said: ‘Our son Joshua
was a thoughtful, loving, compassionate boy. We will miss him dearly.’
Teachers are understood not to have been aware of problems with bullies,
but posts on Joshua’s Ask.fm profile page – which remained online
yesterday – make worrying reading.
Last September, an anonymous poster wrote that he was a ‘f******
n*****d’. It went on: ‘honestly no one cares for you even your parents
don’t want you, there (sic) gunna put you in care’.
In response, Josh wrote that his father had looked at his account and
planned to report the abuse to police. Messages apparently written by Mr
Unsworth followed, demanding an apology and adding he had called the
Some posts appeared to mock Josh’s father’s occupation, calling the
teenager a ‘farmer’, while others accused him of mistreating girls and
acting like ‘a player’.
In response to a post stating ‘no one likes you’, Josh apparently
replied: ‘Let me tell you within that time I have learnt that words are,
well, just words so whatever your miserable low life self thinks of me
can say to my face or on here knowing I don’t care.’ Many posts however,
contained supportive messages, apparently from friends.
Joshua was a year 11 pupil at St Cecilia's Roman Catholic High School in Longridge
Josh’s headteacher, Steve Tattersall, said he would be asking parents to
speak to their children about the possible impact of negative comments
on social media.
He said: ‘I’m aware of some of the comments that are being made about
Josh’s sad death on social networks, both by those who knew him, and
those who did not.’
He added: ‘Josh was always a smiling, friendly presence in school which
made him very popular.’ Schools across the country have written to
pupils in recent months urging them not to use Ask.fm, which has more
than 30 million users worldwide.
Earlier this year Jim Gamble, former chief executive of the Child
Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said the site had been
linked with a number of recent teen suicides in Ireland and the US.
He said: ‘It is almost a stalker’s paradise. Young people need
protection from those who exploit internet anonymity to intimidate,
isolate and bully.’
Lancashire police said: ‘We are in the very early stages of an
investigation and it would be premature to speculate about the possible
reason for his death.’ An inquest will be held at a later date.
Ask.fm could not be reached for comment.
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 909090 or visit a local branch. See samaritans.org for details.