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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Ask.fm delays plan to combat bullying as teen laid to rest

Published 17/08/2013 | 05:00

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David Smith (centre) helps carry the coffin of his daughter Hannah, after her funeral at St Mary's Church in Lutterworth yesterday. Below: a photo of Hannah shown at the service

CONTROVERSIAL website Ask.fm delayed the publication of new plans to deal with online bullying as a teenage girl was laid to rest by her grieving family.

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Hannah Smith (14) was found hanged in her bedroom at the family home in Leicestershire, England, by her 16-year-old sister, Jo, two weeks ago.

Ask.fm came under fire following the death and has since pledged to work with UK police concerning the tragedy.

The Latvian-based website was also linked to the deaths of 13-year-old Erin Gallagher and 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley.

Ciara, from Co Leitrim, took her own life in September of last year. Erin, who was from Ballybofey in Co Donegal, died five weeks later.

Ask.fm has since given gardai IP addresses for the cyberbullies – pinpointing where a computer was used when comments were posted.

The controversial website was also due to publicise plans to deal with online bullying yesterday, but later postponed the announcement to Monday because it coincided with the funeral. It said this was "a mark of respect to Hannah, her family and their grief".

TORMENT

Hannah's family have said the teenager endured months of torment on controversial website Ask.fm, but it has also been reported that she sent herself the majority of the abusive messages. Hannah's father David Smith has denied these allegations.

Ask.fm has also engaged law firm Mishcon de Reya to carry out a full and independent audit of its site and safety features.

Yesterday, more than 400 people gathered for a service to celebrate Hannah's life.

Reverend Charlie Styles, who led the service at St Mary's Church in Lutterworth, said the tone of the funeral was one of celebration.

Afterwards, the congregation released balloons into the grey skies outside the church.

Speaking after the service, he said: "It was a really lovely service with lots of smiles."

The family had requested mourners wear colourful clothing and onesies. Hannah's father, David Smith, dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, was among those who carried her purple coffin into the church as heavy rain poured down.

Her sister, Jo, walked behind the coffin, consoled by her stepmother, Deborah Smith.

Mr Styles said Mr Smith had asked for any donations to go to a local anti-bullying group. "Instead of flowers or anything like that, Dave has asked for donations to Harborough Against Bullying," he said.

BY EMMA SWORD

Irish Independent

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