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Wednesday, November 4, 1998 Published at 17:25 GMT


Hanged choirboy was bullied

Darren Steele was bullied at school

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher: Darren was too frightenened to tell teachers
A choirboy found hanged in his bedroom was the victim of a long bullying campaign, an inquest has heard.

Friends of Darren Steele told the inquest he had been hit, burned with cigarettes and verbally abused at school in Burton, Staffordshire.

[ image: Darren Steele said he was sick of being picked on]
Darren Steele said he was sick of being picked on
They also told how he had grown paler and more sickly in the months before his death.

Darren, 15, was dead when his mother came in to check on him in his bedroom in March last year. He left a note saying he had been bullied.

According to witness statements he was called "gay boy" and "poof" because of his love of cookery and drama lessons at de Ferrers School.

One friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she had seen Darren's back, school bag and head burned with cigarettes.

Sarah Sturdey reporting from the inquest
She also told how he claimed to have attempted suicide before.

"He said: 'I am fed up. I am sick of being picked on'," she said.

"He said he had no friends, but I told him he had me and pointed to his other friends."

She also described how Darren, a choirboy at St Chad's Church in Burton, was too scared to tell teachers about the bullying for fear of reprisals.

[ image: Darren's mother Caroline Eales at the inquest today]
Darren's mother Caroline Eales at the inquest today
Friends described him as a "bubbly, kind and loving" boy who could always be relied on to help another person.

On the day Darren died, witnesses described how he was followed out of the school gates by a group of pupils, before he broke away and ran in the direction of his home.

In a statement by Darren's mother Caroline Eales, she described how she had left him watching Neighbours while she went out for the evening.

When she returned, his bedroom door was ajar and his music was turned up loud.

[ image: Shijmin Akhtar, a family friend:
Shijmin Akhtar, a family friend: "It can't go on like this"
"I saw Darren kneeling on the far side of the bed. His face was blue. I went downstairs screaming 'my son is dead'," the statement read.

Coroner's Officer Barry Johnson told the inquest that Darren had died as a result of hanging.

The inquest continues.

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