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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 00:29 GMT
Surfing for suicide
Computer user
Information about suicide methods can be found on the web
Martyn Piper is a grieving father whose 16-year-old son Tim committed suicide last November.

For the Piper family one major worry was the discovery that their computer fanatic son, who was also an ardent Britney Spears fan, had been digging around in cyber world seeking information about how to kill yourself.

Sadly, Tim found tips and advice on the internet, instrumental in taking his own life. Tim hanged himself in his own bedroom, his body discovered by his mother and brother.

The devastated family want action taken against internet sites that dole out suicide recipes.

Martyn said: "I shook hands with him that evening and said good night, and he gave me his grin and by the next morning he had taken his own life.

"I think what a fine boy he was, what a handsome young man he was and was going to be, and I think it's the most dreadful loss."

Suicide meeting

One particular newsgroup prompted banner headlines earlier this year.

I think what a fine boy he was, what a handsome young man he was and was going to be, and I think it's the most dreadful loss
Martyn Piper
"Alt suicide holiday" attracted several column inches when one man was accused of aiding and abetting another to take his own life.

Louis Gillies from Glasgow first met Michael Gooden from East Sussex on 28th May 2002 in cyberspace.

On the newsgroup the two formed some sort of suicide pact and finally came face to face at Eastbourne Station.

Gooden had his last supper at a local hotel, then the two made their way to the chalky cliffs of Beachy Head where Gooden stripped naked and jumped.

Gooden had attempted suicide several times before, but had never managed it on his own. At Gooden's inquest the coroner raised alarm bells about the internet newsgroups.

'Stark raving rubbish'

Professor Colin Pritchard, a suicide expert from Bournemouth University, is outraged at the existence of such sites.

He said, however, that the internet does not provide expert information.

He said: "In no way could it be called expertise. Very often it's stark raving rubbish. I actually think this is almost moral rape."

Just a short period spent surfing is enough to find the suicide newsgroups.

One posting explained how someone called "Sladd" had a plan to "catch the bus" - the term used on the internet for committing suicide - and was asking for advice about a specific method.

I actually think this is almost moral rape
Professor Colin Pritchard, Bournemouth University
Sladd turned out to be a woman in her 20s living in western America.

Her postings included one detailing a bungled suicide attempt during which she stopped breathing and had to be airlifted from the Colorado wilderness to hospital.

So who is out there posting information offering tips and advice to victims like Sladd and Tim Piper?


Additional cyber searching reveals an individual using the name 'boboroshi'. He posted long, detailed articles advocating suicide as well as responding to postings with tips and advice on the most effective method to kill yourself.

One posting contained the line: "This article is an attempt to provide encouragement for suicide."

In another he responds to a young man who calls himself "joe junior" and writes: "I need help in killing myself. I know I need to do it, but the courage to do so has thus far escaped me."

Boboroshi's response was swift - a suicide recipe.

Mark Williams at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry works closely with suicidal people and has conducted research and written widely on the subject.

Asked to comment on boboroshi's postings, Mark Williams said: "At this point it gets pretty psychopathic, it's without any guilt, it's aggressive, and it's treating other people as objects instead of human beings."

The attraction and the danger of the internet is its anonymity. Staunch defenders maintain it is a crucial tool for those feeling suicidal.

The families of victims like Tim Piper, who surfed for suicide, feel that the internet has given them a life sentence of grief.

Five Live Report: Surfing for Suicide was broadcast on Radio Five Live at 1930 on Sunday, 16 November, 2003.

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