A CORONER has warned of the dangers of online forums after a teenager killed himself over criticisms from other users on a fantasy website.
He described some forum comments as “dangerous in the extreme” - because users didn’t have any physical knowledge of the social standing of the target of their barbs.
Alan Walsh spoke out after hearing how 19-year-old Adam Kenneth Smith deliberately “dived” from behind a bridge parapet on the Manchester / Wallgate line and straight into the path of a Kirby bound two-carriage train carrying 50 passengers and doing at least 40 miles per hour.
Unemployed Adam, who had learning difficulties, was killed instantly from multiple injuries on May 24 after leaving a final note.
He knew the site of the tragedy, North Road bridge at Atherton, very well because it was the site his devastated mum and dad, Joe and Barbara, walked the family’s dogs.
The teenager had “huge” support from his two brothers and parents - highlighted repeatedly during the inquest and didn’t allow his Special Education Needs difficulties defined from six years old to stop him progressing through school and college where he obtained qualifications in catering.
His dream was to open his own cafe. But he had no girlfriend and no friends outside of the contacts he made on a fantasy adventure website where members contributed a story line to an ongoing role play story.
Adam, of Dorset Road, Atherton and described as “very sensitive,” had been hurt by criticism from other forum members about whether he had allegedly plagiarised a story line, which saw him temporarily suspended from using the web site.
A British Transport Police specialist investigation by Sgt Les Peters of Adam’s personal computer and mobile phone was praised by the Coroner for its thoroughness.
But it didn’t find any comments which would have justified a potential prosecution for cyber bullying.
However, he conceded that comments made over a web-cam would not have been retained on the machine’s hard drive, while the forum also had a facility to irretrievably remove past comments.
The hearing also heard Adam “couldn’t wait” for a fantasy convention in Manchester having secured VIP tickets and on the day he took his own life, had bid a cheery goodbye to his parents who left him for three hours to drive their other son back to his home in Skipton.
And promised his brother he would “catch him later” via the web that evening. But a neighbour saw him pass the house in tears with his head down and headphones on.
Northern Rail’s Derek King, a train driver for the past 15 years, embraced Adam’s parents before delivering his own tearful evidence.
He said: “It happened instantly, it was quite deliberate and there was nothing that could be done.”
Mr Walsh said: “Something did happen on that morning and it appears to me to be likely to arisen in the form of a communication. I find the pain of his family, who left him in good spirits and then come home three hours later to find he has died in this fashion, absolutely unimaginable.” Verdict: Took his own life.