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PSNI probe Facebook trolls targeting Ellen Finnegan

Ellen Finnegan (18) who died in a fire at her home in Castlewellan pictured with her father Bartley in the family butcher shop 
Brendan Hughes

THE PSNI has launched an investigation over "sick" online trolls mocking the tragic death of Co Down teenager Ellen Finnegan.

The community of Castlewellan was plunged into mourning earlier this month when the 18-year-old died in a fire in her flat above the family's butcher shop.

But grieving family and friends were dealt a further blow when the grammar school pupil's death was cruelly targeted by faceless online trolls.

A fake tribute page called 'In Memory of Ellen Finnegan' was set up on Facebook and was used to post offensive messages mocking Ellen's death.

When Facebook shut down the page after being inundated with complaints from horrified internet users, the trolls then posted vile videos on YouTube.

On Tuesday Google deleted the YouTube channel and Google Plus profile used after being contacted by The Irish News.

But now the PSNI has confirmed it is investigating after receiving complaints about the online trolling.

A PSNI spokesman told The Irish News on Tuesday night: "Police are aware of comments posted on social media sites and an investigation is ongoing.

"The public should be aware that when posting comments on social media there are a number of laws to be mindful of including libel, contempt, harassment as well as discrimination and public order legislation.

"Social media users are personally responsible for the content they post and there can be both criminal and civil law implications to posting comments online.

"Where a report is made to police of possible criminal offences officers will always investigate and where evidence exists prosecutions will be sought."

Facebook users had expressed their shock over the abusive fake memorial page and offensive videos, branding the trolls "sickening".

Ellen's death at Lower Square on January 16 came exactly three years since her mother died from cancer.

A pupil at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, the teenager had been due to sit her A-Level exams and had recently been offered a place at the University of Liverpool.

She was described as a "young and vibrant" pupil with an enthusiasm for sport, enjoying camogie, football and cross-country running.

The Google and YouTube profiles used to targeted Ellen had remained active for more than two years.

The accounts included several recordings showing how other tragedies had been targeted with fake Facebook memorial pages.

In various comments the user had told of receiving several two-week bans from Google over the years, but the profile remained active until yesterday.

Google said it does not comment on individual cases, but that it acts to remove videos and content that violate its policies when alerted to concerns.

Facebook also said it does not comment on individual cases, but a spokesman said it will "remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement" when necessary.

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