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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Schoolboy (17) who took his own life 'blackmailed by criminals'

Adrian Rutherford

Published 10/06/2015 | 02:30

Ronan Hughes
Ronan Hughes
Schoolfriends of Ronan Hughes attend his funeral at St Patrick’s Church in Clonoe, Co Tyrone. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

A SCHOOLBOY who took his own life may have been blackmailed by criminals from abroad, it has emerged.

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Ronan Hughes is believed to have killed himself after being duped into posting photographs on the internet.

Last night, it emerged that individuals overseas may have been trying to extort money from the 17-year-old.

His school principal, Geraldine Donnelly, said: "It appears that this is something different and even more sinister than online or cyberbullying.

"What we're possibly looking at here is some international element of Ronan having been targeted from abroad purely and only to extort and blackmail him for money.

"There are sinister elements out there who would attempt to use it (the internet) for their own perverted and depraved purposes."

Yesterday, hundreds of mourners packed St Patrick's Church in Clonoe to pay their final respects to the teenager.

During the emotional service, a priest said criminals had taken advantage of his youth and fragility to exploit him and break him.

Fr Benny Fee said: "He was young, he was beautiful, and had his whole life in front of him.

"But with youth comes its own fragility, and some people took advantage of his beauty and fragility.

"They exploited him and they broke him, and if they could do that to such a sensible fella as Ronan, they could do that to anyone.

"May God forgive them."

Fr Fee recalled how Ronan was passionate about music.

"They tell me he had a thousand songs on his iPod, so certainly he was not going to travel through the world in what Simon and Garfunkel used to sing when I was a boy, the sound of silence," he said.

Ronan, from Coole Road in Aughamullan, near Coalisland, took his own life last Friday. Police said he had been tricked into posting images on a social networking site.

The tragedy has caused an outpouring of shock and grief across the close-knit East Tyrone community.

It prompted the PSNI to issue advice to young people about the need to be careful when using the internet.

Irish Independent

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