Girl bullied for saving life of sister dies after overdose

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The Independent Online

A schoolgirl who saved her sister's life by donating bone marrow died yesterday after a suicide attempt provoked by the bullying she suffered following publicity about her bravery.

Elaine Swift, 15, took an overdose of tablets two weeks ago after repeated verbal and physical attacks since she saved her sister, Christine, then aged six, in 1997.

She developed septicaemia, was given a liver transplant, and was placed on a life support machine, but died yesterday in the intensive care unit at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Her parents said she had been picked on at least 30 times by bullies, who called her names, followed her and threw a burning match at her hair. The bullying began at Brierton School in Hartlepool shortly after her sister's operation and continued even after she was moved to nearby Dyke House Comprehensive School.

It was triggered by widespread publicity when she saved her sister after a nationwide search to find a suitable bone marrow donor to treat her leukaemia. Her father, Ben Swift, told her at the time she did not have to go through with it, but she said she would donate all her bone marrow if it saved her sister.

Yesterday Mr Swift said he had reported Elaine's bullying allegations to police and insisted she had been targeted because of the publicity.

He said she had written about committing suicide in a notebook he found next to his computer before she took an overdose. "She wasn't getting listened to at school so we think this was a cry for help. Elaine thought no one was taking notice of her bullying claims. The education system has failed my daughter."

The headteacher of Dyke House, Bill Jordon, said Elaine came to the school because she was unhappy and unsettled where she was. "Her parents decided to bring Elaine to us about a year ago. We were aware that she had problems settling, we dealt with every issue in line with our procedures," he said.

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