Josie Leigh Herniman, 15, found dead in woods in Weston super Mare after 'bullying'

The girl's friends believe she was bullied, but her parents and the police say they were not aware of any problems

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Police are investigating the death of a teenage schoolgirl from Weston super Mare, amid claims that she was bullied.

Josie Leigh Herniman, 15, was discovered dead in woodland near her home on Monday evening.

Friends of the schoolgirl, who attended Broadoak Mathematics and Computing College, claimed she was the victim of bullies.

However, Avon and Somerset Police said that neither detectives, teachers nor Josie's parents were aware of “any issue of bullying”.

In a statement today, her parents Paul and Zoe Herniman paid tribute to their daughter, and called her their "bright light."

“We are totally devastated by the unexpected loss of our bright and beautiful daughter and wonderful sister to Ellie, Daisy, Mya and Jordan.

"Our bright light has gone out and we will never see her grow and achieve all the goals she had dreamt about.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us through this sad time and our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this.”

Detective Sergeant Martin Longden, who is investigating Ms Herniman’s death on behalf of the Avon coroner, called the event “tragic” and said “the loss of this young life has understandably had a significant impact on the community.”

He asked people to respect the family in their grief and not to speculate or draw their own conclusions, partly to protect Josie’s friends who, he said had been “terribly affected by this tragedy”.

Sergeant Longden went on to conform that specialist officers are conducting an inquiry on behalf of the coroner.  A coroner’s inquest based on the evidence police find will then decide the cause of Ms Herniman’s death.

"I'm aware of the speculation on social media and at this stage in our inquiries I can say that neither the police nor the school nor Josie's parents are aware of any issue with bullying," he added.

Ms Herniman’s friends have organised a group on Facebook to pay tribute to the teenager.

On Tuesday, Ms Herniman's friends gathered at Western super Mare beach to hold a candle light vigil.

Educational psychologists have been brought in to support students at her school.

Head teacher Shelagh Pritchard said Josie's death had come ”as a complete shock to all of us".

"We are liaising with the police and getting help and expertise from education psychologists from North Somerset Council as we do all we can to support the whole school community over the coming weeks and months," she said.

"Our thoughts are with her family at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them; she will be sadly missed by staff and students, but not forgotten."

Additional reporting by PA

For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details