Choirboy hanged himself after years of bullying

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The Independent Online
A TORMENTED choirboy hanged himself after suffering for years at the hands of school bullies, an inquest was told yesterday. Darren Steele was burnt with cigarettes, battered with school textbooks and branded a homosexual during five years of abuse at two schools.

The talented 15-year-old was found hanged in his bedroom next to a note naming those he blamed for his death, the hearing in Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, was told. Reginald Browning, the coroner, recorded a verdict of suicide.

After the hearing, Michael York, headmaster of the boy's last school - de Ferrers High in Burton - said: "The real tragedy is that Darren's parents, the school and his grandparents were not aware of his suffering. It is very difficult to do anything about bullying without knowing it is going on."

The inquest was told how slightly built Darren was unable to stick up for himself when confronted by bullies because of his physique. Three of his friends said the bubbly youngster was systematically tormented both physically and mentally at school. One 16-year-old friend said that a week before his death in March Darren had told her that he could stand the pain of his bullying no longer. She said he was frequently called a "gayboy" and "poof" because he enjoyed cookery and drama lessons.

During one English lesson he was "whacked" in the face with a textbook before being verbally abused. The inquest heard how Darren, who had intended to go to catering school after taking his GCSEs, was bullied ever since leaving his primary school.

On one occasion, as he walked past a church, a gang of classmates burnt his head, back and school bag with a cigarette. On another occasion he was made to sit on the floor while boys mocked him.

After the boy's death at his home in Horninglow, police launched an investigation. Detective Sergeant Rod Lakin said 11 pupils at de Ferrers School were arrested on suspicion of harassment and countless others were questioned. But the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to take the matter any further.

In a statement read to the inquest, the boy's mother, Caroline Eales, said that on the day of her son's death he had appeared untroubled and went to his bedroom to watch television after school.

She returned home at about midnight, heard music blaring from Darren's room, and then discovered him dead.

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