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Ronan Hughes: 'Fake Facebook page' used to target schoolboy - The Irish News
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Ronan Hughes: 'Fake Facebook page' used to target schoolboy

Ronan Hughes (17) who was a pupil at St Joseph's Donaghmore and played for Clonoe O'Rahillys GAA club
Brendan Hughes

A fake Facebook page set up by an international criminal gang is at the centre of an investigation into the death of Tyrone teenager Ronan Hughes.

A primary school principal where the 17-year-old helped pupils to read claimed overseas criminals blackmailed the teenager after tricking him into sharing personal images.

Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to the Co Tyrone schoolboy tragically taking his own life last week.

Stephen Magennis, principal of St Joseph's Primary School in Galbally, sent a letter to parents after attending the teenager's funeral on Tuesday.

He said the young GAA player's tragic death was a "direct result of online cyber-bullying and extortion".

"Ronan was the victim of ruthless faceless people, intent on first befriending him and luring him into giving personal information and sharing images that were then used to threaten him in an attempt to extort money," he wrote.

"This was not anyone from the school nor the local area. The police are sure this was an international gang of criminals, from a foreign country, who prey on innocent young people throughout the world.

"They had set up a fake Facebook page pretending to be from our country to trick and deceive Ronan."

Mr Magennis said Ronan, a pupil at St Joseph's Grammar School in Donaghmore, helped P3 children at the school between October and March as part of a reading support initiative.

"His tragic death is a reminder and a warning to all parents that our children must be vigilant and very careful when using the internet," he said.

"We must not be complacent nor naive as parents. We need to talk to and advise our children about staying safe online and monitor what they are doing, saying writing and sharing online."

Ronan, from Aughamullan outside Coalisland, was a member of Clonoe O'Rahilly's GAA club.

His Facebook profile has been changed following his death on Friday to a memorial page that reads 'Remembering Ronan Hughes'.

Last night parents attended a special meeting in Donaghmore where the PSNI and online experts were available to address internet safety concerns.

Police earlier this week issued advice to young people about the need to be careful when using social networking sites.

Officers are investigating if the schoolboy took his own life after being tricked into posting pictures online and then blackmailed.

During his funeral at St Patrick's Church in Clonoe, where he and his brother Cathal were altar boys, parish priest Fr Benedict Fee told mourners: "People took advantage of his youth and his beauty. They exploited him and they broke him."

:: If you or someone you know is in distress or despair you can phone Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 or The Samaritans on 08457 909090 (116123 in the Republic)

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