Spanish students' internet suicide plot foiled by journalists

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The Independent Online

An elaborate suicide plot by three students has been foiled by journalists from a television programme who infiltrated the group and then passed the details to police in an extraordinary case which has both intrigued and appalled Spaniards.

An elaborate suicide plot by three students has been foiled by journalists from a television programme who infiltrated the group and then passed the details to police in an extraordinary case which has both intrigued and appalled Spaniards.

After being charged with the criminal offence of preparing to commit suicide, the students were released into psychiatric care. Their identities have not been revealed, but the details of their conspiracy have provided rare insight into the growing phenomenon of suicide pacts conducted over the internet.

The three students, two from Madrid and one from Gijon in Asturias, rented a country house in a village in the province of Castilla y Leon, near the Portuguese border. With the intention of gassing themselves, they also purchased flammable liquid, a sack of coal, a portable stove and a device for measuring carbon monoxide.

When two journalists from the Con Ana Rosa Quintana show - a kind of Spanish Richard and Judy - stumbled upon the pact while exploring an internet health site, they anonymously joined the cybergroup, pretending to sympathise with the project.

Having obtained the mobile phone number of one of the group, the journalists, whose names have not been released, communicated frequently as plans were finalised for the date and location of the suicide. The students apparently never spoke of a religious or cultish motive for the conspiracy.

A meeting took place between the journalists and a suicide conspirator in Madrid last Sunday. "He seemed a completely normal bloke," one journalist told El Mundo. "He was expert in every imaginable method of committing suicide,

"He knew doses, the quantity of gas necessary, everything for a perfect death. He tried to convince us - and we pretended to agree with the idea - to meet his two companions and join them in their enterprise. But he insisted that they'd go ahead even without us."

The three men, aged between 26 and 30, were from comfortable backgrounds, students in engineering, architecture and computer science. They told police after they were detained that they had no work or family problems that prompted their desire for suicide but were just disenchanted with life.

When the country house was booked, the journalists feared the exercise was getting out of hand and went to the police with the messages. On Thursday, to the alarm and curiosity of the 63 inhabitants of Lober de Aliste, north-west of the provincial capital, Zamora, police entered the house and found everything ready in the garage.

The three students were freed on bail on Saturday, on the condition that they enter a psychiatric retreat.

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