Texts blamed for teen's suicide

Last updated 09:13 24/01/2010

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A Bay of Plenty coroner has expressed "grave concern" about the contents of text messages between teenagers following the suicide of Waihi Beach teen Michael Powell.

The 15-year-old took his life after a late-night text conversation about suicide with two teen girls, an inquest in Waihi District Court was told last week.

The girls, aged 13 and 14, had been texting each other discussing a suicide pact, The Herald on Sunday reported.

When the older girl stopped texting back, the 13-year-old texted Michael, saying "if she's gone then so am I".

Michael called the younger girl from his parents' landline and the pair spoke for about 17 minutes.

The girl told police she explained things to Michael, and when they hung up, everything was "normal".

But Michael was found dead the next morning in a toilet block near his home.

His mother, Heather Powell, told the inquest she was "shocked" by the nature of the texts between the teens, and believed the nature of the messages contributed to Michael's death.

"I believe Michael was left tormented and confused. In his mind both the girls were dead."

Coroner Peter Ryan ruled the death was self-inflicted but reserved his final findings.

He told the inquest he would investigate how troubled youths could be offered more help, and examine the legal framework to see if anything could be done to "reinforce the dangers of sending texts".

"There are some issues with Michael's case that cause me grave concern - very young teenagers texting late at night.

"A text at 2pm is going to have less of an effect than someone receiving it at 2am. Texts are very graphic and can be misconstrued. You don't see the person's face or hear the tone of their voice."

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- NZPA

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