Teen driven to suicide by cyberbullies

Published Thursday, 04 October 2012
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A heartbroken father whose teenage daughter took her own life last month after being abused online says radical action is needed to tackle cyberbullying.

Teen driven to suicide by cyberbullies
Ciara, 15, took her life after she was bullied online. (© UTV)

Jonathan Pugsley said her 15-year-old daughter Ciara was an outgoing, bubbly girl.

"She wasn't kind of a retiring type, she'd always like to be there at the forefront of the conversations and she was very good. That's really how we can remember Ciara," he told UTV Live Tonight.

Ciara was adored by her father and her mother, originally from Omagh, and brother Daniel.

Living in Dromahair in Co Leitrim, the teenager was vibrant and intelligent. She loved her horses, karate, football and anything that involved sport.

Jonathan described the last few weekends the pair spent together, enjoying the countryside and adventuring in a forest.

"Beautiful, beautiful smiles out of her and great chat and just some of the unique sayings she had, it was fantastic and she was just starting to learn how to water-ski," he said.

On 19 September, Ciara went to school as normal. But that evening, without any warning, she took her own life.

How morally can people even operate these sites where these comments are being made and they're open for everyone to see. They're open for the site operators to see them and yet they seem to do nothing about it.

Jonathan Pugsley

"The evening before, the Tuesday she had played a football match and she was looking forward to a minor football match on the Saturday - it was a final and she had been picked out for that," Jonathan explained.

"She seemed happy and just normal Ciara, so there was no indications that anything was wrong at all."

After desperately searching for answers, the family discovered that she was being bullied online via the website Ask.fm, which allows people to leave questions for account holders, and can be used in conjunction with Facebook.

"She was being taunted about a number of things. They were saying she was ugly, she was fat. All sorts of bits and pieces you know," her father explained.

"A lot of it is obviously blatantly untrue but I think when you are a young teenager you take some of these things to heart."

Jonathan said he was disgusted at how people hid behind their anonymity to abuse her. He also expressed his anger that the website is still allowed to operate.

Incidents of cyberbullying is three times higher than in 2007, with just over 15% of year six pupils in Northern Ireland saying they have been a victim, according to the Department of Education.

These faceless, nameless people are coming into our homes and abusing our children and that has to be morally, totally unacceptable.

Jonathan Pugsley

Ciara's father has warned every parent to be on their guard.

He is convinced that parents don't understand the dangers their children are being regularly exposed to on the internet.

"If you're at home and the door bell rings or someone knocks at the door and your son or daughter goes to open the door. They open the door and there is a person there. The person doesn't have a name. Doesn't have a face and yet they let them in to your house, in to your home, they let them in," he described.

During a eulogy at Ciara's funeral, mourners were told how she did not want to die, but was driven to it by bullies.

Jonathan has said while parents have a key role to play, he has called for stronger involvement from schools and the Government to regulate the internet sites which teenagers use.

Gardaí are carrying out an investigation into the case. UTV Live Tonight requested a comment from Ask.fm, which is based in Latvia, on three occasions, but no response has been received.
© UTV News
Comments Comments
Sarah in Leitrim wrote (819 days ago):
I think Facebook,twitter etc. should be banned altogether. When you hear about things like this it tears your heart out. Xx R.I.P ciara
Ciaràn in Perth Australia wrote (841 days ago):
Disgusting and very sad thoughts and prayers with the famliy
Iseult in NI wrote (842 days ago):
This is very sad, a real tragedy and waste of a young life, but I wish all parents would tell their children to come off any website where they're being bullied. Bullies can only hurt you on the Internet if you stay to read what's being said, they have no power over you if you don't. Even a child or teenager can take control by simply x-ing out of that particular site and going to one where the company is better. I'm not a teenager (far from it) but I've encountered unpleasant bullying people online, people who think nothing of saying the most horrible things, but I just 'walk' away. While some forms of bullying can be tackled, eg at school, online bullying is notoriously hard to stop. Yes, moderators on websites can remove posts and ban posters, but they just come back under a different name, hide their IP by using a proxy server, etc. and start all over again.
Sean in Portadown wrote (842 days ago):
I know you probably won't listen kids, but lose the Facebook/twitter etc fascination, go out and talk to your friends, just enjoy life!
Sandy in Co. Down wrote (843 days ago):
I saw her father on the UTV news last night. How he must be hurting, I cannot imagine. Yet he was dignified, calm and gave a thoughtful talk on what parents need to be aware of. That his daughter gave absolutely no signal that anything was wrong was most troubling. Terribly distressing. My prayers are with him and his family.
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