Wednesday 17 January 2018

Phoebe's last text: 'It would be easier if they handed me a noose'

Phoebe Prince: suicide
Anne O'Brien (second from left) – who recalled her 'beautiful' daughter Phoebe Prince (top left) in her statement – listens to testimony during the hearing in the US yesterday
Kayla Narey sits in court
Sean Mulveyhill (centre) during the hearing

Donal Lynch

The mother of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old Irish schoolgirl who took her own life after a campaign of bullying, spoke yesterday of how the death had crushed her.

Addressing a packed US courtroom in Northampton, Massachusetts, Anne O'Brien said: "There is a dead weight that now sits permanently in my chest. It will stay with me until my own death."

Her voice shaking with emotion, Ms O'Brien recalled her "beautiful, intelligent, gregarious" daughter and revealed that one of the last text messages on Phoebe's mobile phone had read: "It would be easier if they had handed me a noose."

She was speaking at the court hearings for Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both of whom pleaded guilty to criminal harassment as part of a plea deal which saw more serious charges dropped. Both must serve a year of probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

Charges against Mulveyhill (18) of statutory rape and violating Phoebe's civil rights were dismissed.

Both he and Narey (18) are forbidden from having contact with the Prince family or from profiting from their involvement in the case.

The deals required the two teens to admit to their threats, crude insults and slurs about Phoebe's nationality.

Ms O'Brien told the court that Mulveyhill, who had briefly dated Phoebe, "knows I was lied to about the true nature of his relationship with her . . . had I known the truth I would have viewed his interest in my daughter as predatory and she would have been forbidden from seeing him".

She added that Phoebe had told her that "Sean condoning this (the bullying) is one of the final nails in my coffin".

She asked why Narey, an ex-girlfriend of Mulveyhill, "could not have found compassion".

She shared memories of visiting Paris with her daughter, reading the girl's poetry and discussing Phoebe's dreams for her future, all of which were lost on the day the teen's younger sister found her body.


Narey, who admitted to "taunting" Phoebe, later tearfully apologised to the court and the Prince family.

"I was the weak one, and that failure will always be with me. I am sorry, Phoebe," Narey said. "I am immensely ashamed of myself that I allowed my emotions to spiral into acts of unkindness."

Phoebe, who grew up near to Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, moved with her mother and sister to Massachusetts in 2009.

Her death and the subsequent criminal charges made her an anti-bullying icon and prompted a change in the law in Massachusetts, criminalising bullying.

"By admitting that they engaged in criminal harassment toward Phoebe Prince, these two defendants have publicly accepted responsibility for their actions, and have been held accountable," said First District Attorney Steven Gagne.

"Today's proceedings signify that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools."

Prosecutors have said the bullying stemmed from four girls' anger about Phoebe's relationships with Mulveyhill, who was captain of the school's football team, and another popular boy; and that Mulveyhill goaded some of the girls to harangue Phoebe after he dumped her.

They painted Mulveyhill as someone who deceived both girls about his involvement with the other, then egged on a third girl to frighten Phoebe and threaten to beat her up.

Today, three of the remaining defendants -- Flannery Mullins, Sharon Velazquez and Ashley Longe -- will be heard in juvenile court.

A sixth defendant, Austin Renaud, is not accused of harassing Phoebe but faces a count of statutory rape, a charge he has denied.

A pre-trial conference in his case is scheduled for July 6.

Irish Independent

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