Second pupil from school dies after suspected overdose

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The Independent Online

Teachers and pupils at a school in Northumberland were coming to terms yesterday with a second suspected suicide by a pupil in as many weeks.

The 870 pupils, aged between 13 to 19, at Hirst High School in Ashington were gathering to remember 16-year-old Karl Peart, who suffered from bullying and died two weeks ago from an overdose, when they were informed of the second tragedy.

Gemma Dimmick, 15, a year 10 pupil at the school in Ashington, Northumberland, was discovered by her parents at the family home on Monday after taking a suspected overdose. She is believed to have left a number of notes.

"A 15-year-old girl was found dead in her bedroom at her home in Ashington at 8.44am on Monday," a police spokesman said yesterday. "A report is being prepared for the coroner. Although the cause of death has not yet been established it does not appear to be suspicious at this stage.

"We are not aware that there is any link between this case and Karl Peart, although both attended the same school," said the spokesman. He said it was too early to say whether Gemma had complained of bullying.

A team of counsellors has been drafted in to try to help the children of the high-achieving school, which is in a socially disadvantaged area of the town.

From 1 September 1999 all UK schools have been legally required to have an anti-bullying policy, but research has shown that teenage suicide attempts are increasing and that there is a higher incidence of overdosing during school term time.

Each year 19,000 children attempt suicide - one every half hour - and at least 16 children every year succeed in killing themselves because they are being bullied. In addition about 2 million children see their GPs each year for emotional and psychological problems associated with bullying.

Police have been investigating allegations of bullying in the case of Karl Peart, who is understood to have taken an overdose of painkillers and alcohol after writing a series of notes to his parents saying he had been tormented by bullies.

Karl left instructions for his funeral and two loving notes for his parents before going to bed with a photograph of his mother lying on the pillow beside him.

Karl's mother said she was stunned to hear of Gemma's death. "It is very upsetting. I know exactly how her parents feel. It is so close together. My heart goes out to them," she said.

Nic Outterside, a spokesman for Northumberland County Council, said: "The whole school is reeling from this. This kind of thing is a lot for any small school community to handle Everyone who knew Gemma seemed to like her and at this stage there is no evidence she was a victim of bullying. We are not aware of any claims of bullying on Gemma. Bullying is not a problem at this school."

Ged Lee, the headteacher, said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family."

Kay Smith, head of the school governors, said the bullying of Karl Peart was believed to have happened outside the school. "We will be looking at our anti-bullying policy again to make sure that it is as good as it can be and nothing is escaping," she said.