Boy found hanged `had been bullied'

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGER left a note saying that he was being bullied at school before hanging himself in his bedroom, it emerged yesterday.

Police announced last night that they were to interview pupils of the school attended by Darren Steele, 15, after he was found dead in the early hours of Saturday morning. The choirboy, of Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, was due to take his GCSE exams next term.

Police confirmed yesterday that a note had been found in the boy's bedroom at the family home. "Discovered at the scene was a hand-written note on which he refers to instances of bullying by his peers," a statement said.

The death of the popular teenager will again place the prevalence of bullying in the playground under the spotlight. It is seven months since Kelly Yeomans, 13, took her own life after she and her family were persistently bullied. Five teenagers were sentenced to spend time at an attendance centre after admitting they harassed the Derbyshire teenager.

Yesterday, Darren's former stepfather, Mark Eales, who is divorced from his mother Caroline, said the teenager had not always been happy at his school, De Ferrers High School in Burton, and had once moved because of bullying. He returned two years ago.

"He was a likeable lad and had a heart of gold. He woke his mum at two minutes past 12 at night on Mother's Day to give her a card," Mr Eales told the Burton Mail.

"That was what he was like. He was a very sensitive young man and quite religious."

Last night, Mrs Steele was too upset to speak but passed a hand-written note to reporters which read: "My life and soul have gone, I am devastated".

Later, a family spokesman issued a statement through the police, saying: "The family are totally and utterly devastated by Darren's death. He was really looking forward to going to Burton Technical College as he had been offered a place on a catering course. He had saved up and bought a small motorcycle and was due to get his provisional licence in April."

The headteacher at Darren's school, Michael York, said education officials had launched an investigation into the claims of bullying at the school.

"The staff and pupils of de Ferrers High School are devastated by news of one of our pupil's sudden and tragic death," a statement said.