Teenager looked up suicide methods before death

Monday, November 19, 2018

A coroner is to write to government education chiefs after a 15-year-old who hanged himself tried to look up suicide methods on school computers.

Ben Walmsley made internet searches on ways to end his life while in lessons in the weeks before his death, Rochdale Coroner's Court heard.

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

But it was not until after his death, and an IT upgrade, that searches about suicide would automatically generate "trigger" emails to teachers to investigate immediately, the inquest into the youngster's death heard.

Head teacher, Tina Owen, said school IT security blocks 12,000 internet searches made each day that are deemed "inappropriate" at the 900-pupil school.

Ms Owen said the only way previously of monitoring a pupil's Internet searches was if the school had worries over a pupil or the child was seen as a particular risk - then pastoral care could investigate what the pupil had been looking at.

And the inquest heard while the 15-year-old had a "number of complexities" and previously had counselling in school, no-one thought him at risk of suicide.

Joanne Kearsley, Senior Coroner for Manchester North, said she would write to the Department of Education as schools should have the ability to access and look at a pupil's search history.

The inquest heard Ben was found by his father at their home address, Lowton Street in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, on the afternoon of February 4 this year.


Doki Doki Literature Club

Friends of Ben later told police he had become "obsessed" with a cult horror game called Doki Doki Literature Club, which he played online.

The game, which is free to download and comes with a warning saying it should not be played by children or people easily offended, features teenage cartoon characters, relationship breakdown, 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.

His mother, Jessica Bodlovic, said since her son's death she was aware he had been playing the Doki Doki game regularly.

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