Manchester

Boy, 15, looked up suicide methods at school before death

People using laptops generic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ben Walmsley's searches were blocked by the security firewall at his school, an inquest heard

A 15-year-old boy who took his own life tried to look up suicide methods on school computers, his inquest heard.

Ben Walmsley searched ways to end his life in lessons weeks before his death, Rochdale Coroner's Court was told.

The searches were blocked by the security firewall at the school in Whitefield, Greater Manchester.

Coroner Joanne Kearsley said she would write to the Department for Education to recommend schools have access to pupils' internet histories.

The inquest heard it was not until after the teenager's death, and an IT upgrade, searches about suicide would automatically generate "trigger" emails for teachers to investigate immediately.

Tina Owen, head teacher of Philips High School, said school IT security blocks 12,000 internet searches made each day that are deemed "inappropriate" at the school.

She said the only way previously of monitoring pupils' searches was if the school had reason to investigate.

While the teenager had a "number of complexities" and had previously had counselling, no-one thought him at risk of suicide, the inquest heard.

'Benefit of hindsight'

He was found by his father hanged at their home in in Radcliffe on 4 February.

Friends later told police the teenager had become "obsessed" with a cult online horror game that featured cartoon characters, relationship breakdowns, self-harm and suicide.

His father Darren Walmsley said most of his son's social time was spent online, though he would encourage him to go out with friends and he had in the past challenged his son about self-harm, but he denied it.

The inquest heard there was no evidence to link the boy playing the game with self-harm or suicide, but it was "quite right" this was investigated.

He had also sent Snapchat messages to a friend asking "why am I here?", said David Mellor, an independent safeguarding consultant who conducted a serious case review for Bury Safeguarding Children Board.

Mr Mellor said there had been a "number of issues" worrying him, including the breakdown of his parent's marriage and their subsequent divorce.

The inquest also heard the teenager had counselling for seven months at school, which ended six months before his death, but neither his family nor his GP had been made aware.

Mr Mellor said various agencies, including mental health services, had dealings with him, but added: "No-one had all the pieces of the jigsaw."

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Coroner Ms Kearsley said: "The evidence we have heard now indicates, with the benefit of hindsight, that Ben was a young man who potentially had a number of complexities.

"He was making, in very subtle ways, an intention to potentially end his life, for example searches he was doing on the internet.

"This whole process seems to have escalated in the months leading up to his death."

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