Thursday 22 March 2018

No healing in anger, says dad of bullied teen

Documentary tells of a father's battle to forgive

Lynne Kelleher

The heartbroken dad of tragic bullied teenager Phoebe Prince has told how his daughter hugged him and said 'Daddy, I love you' the last time he ever saw her.

The 15-year-old, originally from Co Clare, has become the subject of the most high-profile bullying case in America with six teenagers facing charges in relation to her death in January.

Her father, Jeremy Prince, speaks for the first time about his beautiful, fun-loving daughter and the high school bullies who made her life unbearable in a new hard-hitting RTE documentary.

The 66-year-old English gardener told how he is battling to forgive the bullies who are believed to have driven Phoebe to her tragic death.

"There is no healing in anger and revenge. The only real healing in the long-term can come in finding the ability to forgive and that has been my focus from the start.

"Believe me, it's bloody hard," he said.

Just over four months after leaving the family home in Fanore in Co Clare to try out life in Massachusetts, the teenager took her own life.

Her English father and her American mother, Anne O'Brien Prince, met in London and moved to Clare in 1996 when Phoebe was a carefree two-year-old child.

In the documentary, which examines every aspect of the case that has captured the attention of the world, he describes a chatty, carefree Irish teenager.

He said: "She loved writing. She loved walks. She loved the seaside," he said fondly.

The documentary chronicles the harassment Phoebe Prince suffered at South Hadley High School and how her death has become the subject of the most controversial bullying prosecution case in US legal history.

Phoebe was 14 when her mother decided to take a one-year leave of absence from her teaching job in Lisdoonvarna and go to her native Massachusetts with Phoebe and younger sister Lauren. Her father said the family planned to see if they wanted to live in America or Ireland after a year's trial run.

He said: "Phoebe was reluctant. She was leaving friends and at that age your friends are your whole life."

The RTE documentary details how two brief relationships between the Clare girl and two older boys were the catalyst behind the campaign of horrific bullying.

According to the district attorney, Phoebe Prince had a brief intimate relationship with Sean Mulveyhill, who was 17 at the time, in November 2009, which upset his on-again off-again 16-year-old girlfriend Kayla Narey.

The relationship ended one month later and was followed by a campaign of harassment by Kayla Narey, Sean Mulveyhill and his 16-year-old friend Ashley Longe against Phoebe.

Following the break-up with Mulveyhill, she had a brief relationship with an 18-year-old boy called Austin Renaud in December.

The investigation reveals that his 16-year-old girlfriend Flannery Mullins and her 16-year-old friend Sharon Chanon Velazquez then began a campaign of their own against Phoebe.

The programme tells how the DA revealed that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a day of verbal harassment and threats of physical abuse.

'The Trials of Phoebe Prince', RTE One tomorrow, 9.35pm

Sunday Independent

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