Nigerian gang blackmailed teen who took his own life - for £3,300
The parents of a Tyrone teenager who took his own life have revealed a Nigerian gang was blackmailing him over intimate photographs in a bid to scam £3,300.
In an interview with the Irish News, the father of Ronan Hughes (17) described the anguish of discovering the body of their son and explained the circumstances surrounding his death.
Gerard and Teresa Hughes said they want to warn parents of the danger of cyberbullying in a bid to prevent a similar tragedy.
They described the "relentless" blackmailing their son was the subject of and said they believe he would still be alive had the police treated the matter with more urgency.
His distraught parents explained Ronan had come to them three days before his death to tell them he was being blackmailed by a Facebook account threatening to send his online friends images unless he paid £3,300 within 48 hours.
Following his tragic death, police traced the address of the page to Nigeria and were able to shut it down.
However, Ronan's parents say the decisive action taken was too late and their son's death may well have been prevented had there been a more urgent response.
"We want there to be changes so if a child out there is being bullied online they can go to the police or other authorities with their concerns. We don't want another family to go through what we've gone through," they said in an interview with the Irish News.
His mother said Ronan had come to her before the tragedy and had said: 'I'm in trouble here'.
"He gave me his phone. They were looking for more than £3,000 for an image he posted and told him they were going to show it to all his friends. They sent him a list of all his Facebook friends. He texted back to say, 'but I'm only 17'."
Ronan's father then brought him to Dungannon police station but the gates were closed and they were told only one officer was on duty. They stood there for 15 minutes and eventually an officer came out to them.
The policeman said there was very little he could do as he was on his own that night. He told them to come back the next morning and to ignore the email.
He told them he couldn't guarantee the images would not be posted.
"If the police had given Ronan reassurance and said 'we'll contact IT experts, we'll close this down, we'll stop that' - Ronan would still be here today."
They went to the police station the following morning where they spent several hours. They were again told to ignore the emails. Police took his phone and waited anxiously for them to get in touch over the next two days.
On the day of his death he contacted his mother to say his Facebook friend had received a link containing private images - but she had not opened it.
She reassured him and immediately rang her husband who went straight home to find his son had taken his own life.
His parents say they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from their parish since his death.
"The support we have received from the GAA community has also been outstanding, especially Ronan's club. The school have been so supportive."
They say they have been comforted also by other parents who have lost children through suicide. And they have also received great support from a very supportive PSNI liaison officer.
They added that they want the media to respect their privacy and said they needed time to grieve.
"The biggest point we want to get across is how naive parents are in relation to social media.
"We just don't want this tragedy to happen to anybody else."
The PSNI have said they are planning on meeting with the family in the coming days.