Nigerian gang blackmailed tragic Coalisland teenager Ronan Hughes, say parents

editorial image

The parents of Coalisland teenager Ronan Hughes who took his own life have said a Nigerian gang was blackmailing him over intimate photographs.

Gerard and Teresa Hughes said the gang demanded more than £3,000 from their son, Ronan, and then sent images of him to his friends on social media.

Speaking to the Irish News, they criticised police “inaction” after the 17-year-old revealed what was going on.

Police said they hoped to meet the family to discuss their concerns.

Det Ch Supt Brian Hanna said: “Our enquiries are continuing into what will be a complex and protracted investigation, and we will keep the family informed of any progress as appropriate.

“The office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is also best placed to deal with any complaints in relation to police actions.”

‘Relentless’

Ronan’s parents told the newspaper that his death, less than two weeks ago, could have been prevented.

At the time, it was believed the Coalisland teenager was tricked into posting pictures online, and police said they are investigating whether he was being blackmailed.

Speaking for the first time since their son’s death on 5 June, the couple described their son’s online blackmailers as “relentless”.

They said he was being blackmailed over images he posted online after receiving photographs from a girl.

His mother said: “We want there to be changes so if a child out there is being bullied online they can go to the police or other authorities with their concerns.

“We don’t want another family to go through what we’ve gone through.”

Ronan’s parents told the Irish News that their son, a pupil at St Joseph’s Grammar in Donaghmore, had confided in them three days before his death about a fake Facebook account.

He said the blackmailers said they would send the images to his online friends unless he paid £3,300 within 48 hours.

Ronan died just hours after learning that his blackmailers had carried out their threat.

‘Worried’

His parents believe he would still be alive if his case had been treated more urgently by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

“His biggest worry was that his friends would see these images, “ Mr Hughes said.

But when he took his son to Dungannon police station, they were told there was only one officer on duty.

“A policeman said to us there was very little they could do as he was there on his own that night.

“He scribbled down a few notes and told us to ignore the blackmail. He told us to come back the next morning.

“I knew Ronan was looking for help and I told him that all my son wanted is for these images not to be posted. He told us that he couldn’t guarantee that. For Ronan, it was totally dismissive.”

He said if the police had given Ronan an assurance that they would close the site down, he “would still be here today”.

They returned to the police station the next day where they spent several hours and Ronan’s phone was taken.

However, they heard nothing more from the police.

The Nigerian site was closed within two days of the tragedy.