Parents blame TV programme for son's death
Wednesday 23 December 1992
An inquest yesterday in Nottingham recorded a verdict that Martin Denham, 18, killed himself, but his mother, April Denham, said: 'I blame the BBC - it is all their fault. They said it was based on a true story but it was all a hoax.'
Percy Denham, his stepfather, said: 'He was a very nervous lad. He thought there were ghosts in our home. In my own mind I hold the BBC completely responsible for his death. But I won't be suing them - I can't afford it.'
The inquest was told that Mr Denham, who had the mental age of 13, was found hanging from a tree near his home in Bestwood Park, Nottingham, on 5 November. He had tied a length of plastic hosepipe around his neck. A note found in his back pocket said: 'Please don't worry - if there are ghosts I will be a ghost, and I will be with you always as a ghost.'
The documentary-style Ghostwatch programme, starring Michael Parkinson, which was screened on 31 October, Halloween, upset hundreds of viewers who jammed BBC switchboards to protest about its realistic content.
Shortly after Mr Denham's death the BBC said the programme had been clearly advertised as fictional.
Percy Denham, 51, told the coroner, Peter Jenkin-Jones, that his stepson had been virtually hypnotised by the programme. 'He was really into it - he was just gone. I had to keep asking him if he was all right,' he said.
That night, Mr Denham insisted on keeping his bedroom light on, which he had never done before. He was also concerned by noises from central heating pipes in the house - something which had featured in the Ghostwatch programme.
The coroner made no reference to the programme when he announced his verdict.
After the hearing, Aideen Hanley, a BBC solicitor, said the corporation and all those associated with the making of the programme had already expressed their sympathy to the Denham family. 'It is a very sad time for the family and we do not think it would be helpful to add any further public comment.'
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