The death of a 15-year-old girl who was text bullied by her boyfriend's wife has prompted a coroner to call for a new law governing online communications.
Hayley Ann Fenton died at Rotorua Hospital in July 2009 after taking a high number of her father's heart pills.
In a decision released today, Bay of Plenty coroner Wallace Bain said there was no doubt Hayley took the pills in response to the very abusive texts she received.
"The question here, however, is whether she deliberately took them with the expectation that she would not die. At the time she was taking them, she was texting the love of her life asking for help. In my view, it is a cry for attention rather than intending to definitively take her own life." Her death is not deemed to be a suicide.
The finding states that after taking an after-school job at a takeaway shop in January 2009, Hayley met Pelesasa Tiumalu, 27. The pair began a relationship and slept together several times.
At the same time, Tiumalu was married to Elina Tuimalu.
In July, Tiumalu decided to call off the relationship with Hayley, telling her by text message.
On Tuesday July 14, Hayley texted Tiumalu, saying: "Oh my god so we're breaking up? I can't lose you babe please I won't be able to live without you."
Several texts between the pair were later exchanged.
Just after midnight on Wednesday July 16 Tiumalu's wife, Elina, discovered Hayley had been texting her husband. She sent Hayley a message which read: "Stop f****** texting my husband you ugly b**** or I'll f***** smash your face wait till I f****** see yo, you f***** watch your back I'll get my girls at Girls High to f*** you over bae".
Hayley replied, saying she thought Tiumalu and his wife had broken up and she would now stop texting him. More abusive texts followed from Elina Tiumalu.
On Friday July 17 at 9.43am Hayley sent Tiumalu another text: "Hi Pete um this might be the last text you ever get from me um I can't handle just being friends cause I love you too much".
At 1.12pm she texted: "I did it I just took most of my dad's heart pills I love you so much I'm sorry you're the only one who knows I've done this".
After she took the pills she texted Tiumalu, saying: "I don't want to die anymore can you please come take me to hospital." Another said: "Please help me I'm in my bathroom please."
She received further threatening texts from Elina Tiumalu in reply.
At 3.46pm Elina Tiumalu sent Hayley a text - pretending to be her husband - which said: "Don't text me again just f*** off I don't care if you kill yourself I not even like you arsehole. "
More texts abusive texts followed. Hayley texted back asking for help.
At 4.30pm Hayley came out of her bedroom and it was noticed she was ill. She died in Rotorua Hospital the following morning.
In 2010 Elina Tiumalu, 21, was sentenced to a nine months suspended sentence for intimidation for her role in the matter.
Pelesasa Tiumalu was sentenced to four years and three months jail on a charge of sexual conduct with a young person.
In today's decision coroner Bain recommended a new law be established to provide culpability and a penalty provision that covers online communication such as Facebook and Twitter.
Any law should be particularly hard on abusive and malicious content and make the vulnerability of young people an aggravating factor, he said.
"In my view serious consideration should be given to a law that is clearly understood and accessible to the public and covers the harmful effects of these new ways of communicating.
"The evidence shows in this case... that young people are particularly susceptible to this form of communication. They are often on their own when they receive it. It can be late at night... There is a problem with sleep deprivation and, generally, a young person such as Hayley is not equipped to deal with the matters she found before her and, in particular, the vicious nature of the bullying texts she received. It must have been extremely frightening for her and it is not surprising she reacted in the way she did."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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