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Northern Ireland news

Ronan Hughes: Man jailed in Romania after blackmailed teen's suicide

Co Tyrone teenager Ronan Hughes. A Romanian man has been jailed for webcam blackmail linked to the death of the 17-year-old GAA player

 

THE man whose evil blackmail led to the death of tragic Tyrone teenager Ronan Hughes has been jailed.

Iulian Enache (31), from Romania, was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to blackmailing the 17-year-old and producing and distributing indecent images of a child.

PSNI officer Tim Mairs discusses the conviction and sentencing of Iulian Enache

Ronan, from Clonoe near Coalisland, took his own life in June 2015 after he was blackmailed by Enache.

The death of the popular young GAA player, a pupil at St Joseph's Grammar in Donaghmore, shocked his community but many feared that the culprit would never be brought to justice.

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The teenager's parents said Ronan had taken his own life after being tricked into posting indecent images of himself on social media via a webcam.

It had been initially thought he had been duped by a Nigerian crime gang but police later traced the blackmail to Romania.

Enache, who was charged in October 2016, pleaded guilty in a court in Timisoara, western Romania, last week.

Under Romanian law, Enache will serve three years and will be released with time served on October 29, 2019.

Detective Chief Inspector James Mullen, from the PSNI’s Criminal Investigation Branch, said it had been a "tragic case" and paid tribute to the Hughes family for their "dignity...co-operation and patience".

"This has been a complex and protracted investigation over the course of two years, involving a huge effort between PSNI officers who travelled to Romania working closely with our colleagues there, and prosecuting officers in the jurisdiction," he said.

He thanked Romanian police, Europol and the National Crime Agency for their help.

"A four-year prison sentence is no compensation for the loss of Ronan Hughes - a young man who had his whole life ahead of him – however, there can be no doubt that the sentence means others will be spared the pain and loss experienced by the Hughes family at the hands of Enache," he said.

He added: "I also want to take this opportunity to appeal to parents and guardians to do all they can to keep their children safe from the hands of online criminals. We are all aware of the part social media plays in today’s society, therefore, it is incumbent on everyone to do what they can to stop offenders like Enache."

Mr Mullen urged any child who has received inappropriate images or links to contact police or tell a trusted adult.

"You will not get into trouble," he said. "This tragic case highlights that police will do all they can to pursue these online criminals who are preying on our communities."

Any child affected by these issues can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

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