Mother's son killed himself after tormentors shared revenge porn snaps

Mother whose son, 19, killed himself after he was blackmailed on his Xbox by revenge porn bullies says she fears students are at greater risk of cyber abuse because they’re spending more time online due to Covid-19

  • Heartbroken Ruth Crockett’s 19-year-old son, Joel, hanged himself in April 2019 
  • Revenge porn photographs of him were circulated around his social group 
  • The tormentor had also demanded money from the Liverpudlian teenager 
  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, or click here for details 

A mother whose son killed himself after being bullied online has spoken of her fears for millions of students returning to universities without proper support.

Ruth Crockett’s 19-year-old son, Joel, hanged himself after revenge porn photographs of him were circulated around his social group in April 2019. 

The tormentor had demanded money from the Liverpudlian teenager, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s as well as mild learning difficulties, and had also been previously bullied online.

A man, 18, from Lancaster was arrested and questioned by detectives over Joel’s death but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to take the case to court. 

After her son’s death, mother-of-four Ruth, 53, set up Joel’s Goals – a group aimed at supporting those affected by online abuse.

Ruth Crockett’s 19-year-old son, Joel, hanged himself after revenge porn photographs of him were circulated around his social group in April 2019. Pictured, Ruth with Joel

The tormentor had demanded money from the Liverpudlian teenager (pictured), who was diagnosed with Asperger’s as well as mild learning difficulties, and had also been previously bullied online

Ruth said: ‘Our government is sending thousands of students to college and university, where they won’t receive any face to face teaching and they won’t be allowed to mix with their peers, to socialise or to make new friends.

‘They are basically condemning them to stay in their rooms and social media is their only form of contact with the outside world. This will lead to more bullying, more abuse and more lives lost.

‘What will it take to make the government listen? We will lose more lives to depression than to coronavirus, but nobody seems interested at all.’

Joel was the youngest of Ruth’s four children and was a happy child. But in high school he was diagnosed with Asperger’s and mild learning difficulties.

Ruth said: ‘Joel seemed like a perfectly normal lad, but he was very literal, and he was very trusting and vulnerable. 

A man, 18, from Lancaster was arrested and questioned by detectives over Joel’s death but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to take the case to court. Pictured, Joel on his 18th birthday

After her son’s death, mother-of-four Ruth, 53, set up Joel’s Goals – a group aimed at supporting those affected by online abuse. Pictured, Ruth’s son Joel

‘I gave him five pound to go to the ice-cream van and so he bought five ice-creams and didn’t bring any change back. If his footie team got beat, he would cry for days. He took everything to heart.

‘But he was full of fun too. One of his favourite tricks was to lean out of his bedroom window with a long pole and knock on our front door. I was forever answering the door and there was nobody there.’

She recalled: ‘He loved drama and he was a born performer and entertainer. He wanted to be an actor. I enjoy singing too and I would sing him sleep every night when he was little.’

But in his teenage years, Joel was bullied and taken advantage of, with Ruth explaining: ‘He was conned and bullied into buying games online, he set up overdrafts and credit cards. I had to keep a close eye on him.

‘I went into the bedroom one day and Joel said a boy from school was sharing naked photos, but he insisted they were nothing to do with him.

‘Three days before he passed away, I heard him being taunted through the Xbox, being called names like “c***”.’

‘He also asked me for a “lump sum of money”. It was a term he would never have used, as if he was repeating a phrase, but I refused. I never even asked him what it was for, I didn’t think for a moment he was being blackmailed.’

She added: ‘I would have run to the end of the earth and back to protect him, I would have gone straight to the police if I knew how bad it had become for Joel.’

But shortly after, Ruth discovered her son had hanged himself in his bedroom. 

Ruth was horrified to discover that Joel had researched websites to learn how to kill himself in the hours before his death. Pictured, Joel’s funeral

Ruth said: ‘I want to help and support other victims of online trolling and cyberbullying. Teenagers and young people don’t know how to cope with these situations. They need our support, now more than ever.’ Pictured, Joel’s grave

The distraught mother recalled: ‘I was hysterical. I ran into the street screaming for help, but it was too late. My son was dead.’

An inquest earlier this month ruled that Joel had killed himself.

The hearing heard that police were informed that private photos had been sent to many of the 19-year-old’s school friends, which ‘might have had an effect’ on his mood.

A man, 18, from Lancaster, was arrested and questioned by detectives.

He was quizzed over an offence of disclosing private sexual photographs with intent to cause distress and a second offence of doing an act capable of encouraging or assisting suicide.

Ruth has now set up a charity and support group called Joel’s’ Goals in his memory (pictured above)

Following a review of all the evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to take the case to court.

Coroner Anita Bhardwaj told the hearing: ‘There are issues of people disclosing intimate photographs and videos on social media. There are a number of people involved here.

‘In terms of evidence, there’s no proof anybody assisted or encouraged the act which Joel carried out.’

Ruth was horrified to discover that Joel had researched websites to learn how to kill himself in the hours before his death.

She has now set up a charity and support group called Joel’s’ Goals in his memory.

She said: ‘I want to help and support other victims of online trolling and cyberbullying. Teenagers and young people don’t know how to cope with these situations. They need our support, now more than ever.’

If you have been affected by this story, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org. 

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