Tuesday 20 March 2018

Family claim schoolgirl (12) killed herself after bullying

Helene Burns arrives at the Coroner's Court in Dublin
Helene Burns arrives at the Coroner's Court in Dublin

A CORONER has asked the family of a schoolgirl who died by hanging to hand over more details about alleged bullying to investigating gardai.

It came after the inquest into the death of 12-year-old Lara Burns was told that officers could find no evidence of criminal harassment or bullying.

Lara was found hanging in a barn at her family home at Grange, Enfield, in Co Meath, on the evening of November 24 last year.

During the course of yesterday's hearing Inspector Paul Dolan told Dublin Coroner's Court that gardai found no evidence of bullying or cyberbullying that met the criminal standard.

But her family insisted that they had been given the details of people who had bullied their daughter prior to her death.

Lara's mother, Helene Burns, also said that she wanted to know when exactly her daughter died and questioned the length of time it took an ambulance to reach them.

Dublin city's coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, said he had no choice but to adjourn the inquest until March 19, so that further witnesses could be called to respond to claims made during the hearing.

Ms Burns told the hearing she first became aware that Lara was having difficulties in mid-September, when it emerged that she had been self-harming.

She said that this was discovered when a friend of Lara's sitting next to her in class saw marks on her arms.

She said that the teacher saw the commotion and Lara was sent to see the counsellor in the middle of class.

"The teacher did not do it discreetly," she said.

Lara promised she would stop self-harming, she said, and she was attending suicide and self-harm crisis centre Pieta House.

Ms Burns said that her daughter was not sleeping, was depressed and had lost interest in life.

On the night of her death, Lara spent time on the family laptop and later asked if she could go outside to feed their horse.

"I told her if she wanted to give her a bit of hay, she could.

"She turned around and gave me a big hug and a kiss and said 'I love you, Mam'. That was the last time I spoke to Lara," she said.

She was subsequently found hanging by her 14-year-old brother, Brendan Burns.

Insp Dolan said that a forensic examination of the laptop had revealed that Lara visited a number of websites relating to self-harm and suicide before her death.

He said that while there were entries on Facebook, there was nothing in them and there was no suggestion of cyberbullying.

There was a conversation between two people, he said, which he characterised as "slagging each other off".

He said that there was no evidence of bullying either at school or on social media sites.

The family had earlier raised an incident in which a rumour was spread in school that Lara had brought razor blades into the building, which resulted in the school being searched.

Insp Dolan said that the matter was dealt with and finalised by the school and it went in Lara's favour.

He told the court that there was no evidence to sustain any criminal charges in relation to Lara's death.

Garda TM Milner said that diaries kept by Lara retrieved by gardai following her death included a number of notes, one of which read: "Altogether I've tried suicide 28 times, it's not worth it."

Speaking from the body of the court, Ms Burns raised issues regarding the length of time it took the ambulance to reach the family's home and the transfer to Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin, where Lara was pronounced dead.

Gda Milner confirmed that the ambulance initially went to the wrong address and, subsequently, took a wrong turn on the way to the hospital.

Luke Byrne and Gareth Naughton

Irish Independent

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