Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 16:12 UK

Vicar condemns website bullying

One of many tributes outside the school
Tributes have expressed rage at those said to have hounded Sam

A vicar conducting the funeral of a boy who hanged himself said his online tormentors murdered him as surely "as if someone has killed him with a gun".

Sam Leeson, 13, of Tredworth, Gloucester, was attacked because of his dark clothes and love of "Emo" music.

Canon John Evans spoke out in front of more than 200 mourners at Gloucester Crematorium.

He said Sam's bullies were "evil cowards" who "don't have the courage to face those they are attacking".

Sam was found hanged in his bedroom on 5 June 2008.

Mr Evans, 70, called for companies profiting from social networking sites to ban bullies "hiding in the dark", to prevent another tragedy like Sam's.

Tributes left

"The terrorists who persuaded Sam that life was not worth living - and who used what is a good thing where friends can talk, to abuse and take away his dignity - are just as bad as those who throw bombs," he said.

"He didn't deserve to be abused because he chose a particular way to dress, a particular sort of music and particular friends. There's nothing wrong in that.

"It's part of growing up, but for Sam there can be no growing up because of those who made his life hell."

The term Emo is derived from a 1980s punk scene known as Emotional Hardcore.

It refers to a young sub-set of the Goth trend epitomised by wearing black skinny jeans and Converse trainers, having dyed hair and pale skin and wearing black eyeliner.

During the service, Sam's mother Sally Cope said her son loved "proper guitar rock music with meaningful lyrics", and that culture was a big part of family life.

She recalled his "alternative fashion sense, squeezing into skinny jeans and growing his hair", but did not speak of his bullying.

Sam's favourite tracks by the Goo Goo Dolls and the Foo Fighters punctuated the ceremony, often drowned out by the tears of his classmates.

A series of YouTube video tributes have expressed rage at those said to have hounded the gifted student on his Bebo webpage.

Sam leaves behind his parents Ms Cope and Christopher Leeson, as well as six siblings, Emma, Victoria, Thomas, Katie, Rio and Milly.


SEE ALSO
Dead boy 'may have been bullied'
11 Jun 08 |  Gloucestershire

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