UK: New deaths revive Bridgend suicide cult fears

The grim tally in a town hit by a spate of suicides has risen to 16 after two young cousins took their own lives.

Fears of a “suicide cult” resurfaced in Bridgend, South Wales, after Nathaniel Pritchard, 15, and Kelly Stephenson, 20, hanged themselves.

It is thought that the pair, who lived on the same street in the town, could have taken part in a death pact.

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Miss Stephenson was on a family holiday in Folkestone, Kent, when she heard of her cousin’s attempt on his life.

A relative confirmed that she hanged herself after being told that there was little chance he would pull through.

The schoolboy, the youngest so far to take his own life, was still alive when he was found on Wednesday night in an attic room in Cefn Glas, Bridgend, but died yesterday when his life-support machine was turned off.

His cousin’s body was discovered late on Thursday night. She had hanged herself from a shower rail after saying she was going to the bathroom.

Sixteen young people, aged 15 to 27, from Bridgend and the surrounding area have hanged themselves since January last year. Police maintained last night that there was “no evidence” that any of the deaths were linked.

However, that the town was at the centre of a suicide “cluster” appeared undeniable.

Some believe that young people have incited each other on social networking websites such as Bebo and Facebook. Both the latest victims were members of the two sites. On her Bebo page Miss Stephenson said her biggest fear was “losing the people I love”.

However, no evidence had emerged that she had been encouraged via the internet to commit suicide. Miss Stephenson was friends with two of the previous victims, Gareth Morgan, 27, and Liam Clarke, 20, who died last year.

A relative of the cousins said: “Kelly was friends with both boys but whether this had anything to do with what has happened we just don’t know.

“We just don’t understand what is going on in Bridgend. Kelly and Nathaniel were both brilliant kids with good futures ahead of them. We would never have thought in a million years that they were capable of anything like this.”

Miss Stephenson was a keen footballer and had recently signed for a local team, Porthcawl Lightnin Strikers.

Tony Morgan, the team’s manager, said: “It is a shock and another tragedy involving a young person.”

Tributes to Nathaniel began appearing on his Bebo site within hours of his death. One said: “I’ve known u all my life. 4 u to do this is unreal M8. Hope you are happier where you are.”

Last night, the Bridgend MP, Madeleine Moon, claimed that the sites had the effect of “romanticising suicide”. She said: “What is concerning is that you’re getting internet bereavement walls. That’s not going to help anyone.”

Philip Walters, the Bridgend and Glamorgan Valleys coroner, said last month that he was “desperately concerned” about the number of suicides.

However, earlier this month he told an inquest that there was “no commonality between these deaths”.

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Stephen Adams and Nick Allen, Telegraph, Feb. 16, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday February 16, 2008.
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