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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Hanged boy 'was bullied on bus'
Ben Vodden (picture from Sussex Police)
Ben Vodden was a pupil at Tanbridge House School in Horsham
An 11-year-old boy hanged himself from his bunk bed after being subjected to months of bullying on the school bus, an inquest has heard.

Ben Vodden was found unconscious by his father, Paul, with shoelaces wrapped round his neck and tied to his bunk bed on 12 December last year.

His mother, Caroline, said the bullying began on Ben's second day at Tanbridge House School in Horsham, West Sussex.

Deputy West Sussex coroner David Skipp recorded an open verdict.

The inquest was told the bus driver, Brian McCullogh, was responsible for some of the name-calling.

Mrs Vodden recalled that the bullying started when her son had his tie taken from him on the bus.

She said the school had rung her on the day Ben died to say he had been taken off the bus because he had been hitting the air vent and making a gesture at the driver.

The victim was made to feel as bad as the perpetrators
Caroline and Paul Vodden

When she confronted him he became angry and defensive and refused to tell her what happened.

He then went to his room, where she heard him sobbing like she had never heard him crying before.

A short while later, his father returned to the family home in Southwater, near Horsham, and found Ben hanging in his bedroom.

Mrs Vodden told the inquest that Ben had previously confided the explicit nature of the name-calling to his father, who called the company, C and L Coaches in Lancing, but no-one was available to speak to him.

When he alerted Ben's school the following day, Mr Vodden was told to speak to West Sussex County Council, while the school said it would deal with the bus firm.

But Mr McCullogh denied the allegations and no further action was taken because it was the driver's word against Ben's, the inquest heard.

Giving evidence, Mr McCullogh, a former security officer, described Ben as lively and boisterous but said he considered them to have a very good relationship.

He admitted calling Ben some of the names alleged but claimed it was a "banter" they shared.

'Life cut short'

In a statement after the hearing, Mr and Mrs Vodden said their son would not be dead if he had not been bullied.

Mr and Mrs Vodden also called for adult supervision on school buses to guard against bullying and act as a reliable witness.

"The victim was made to feel as bad as the perpetrators, and that can't be right," they said.

The coroner said it was a tragedy a life of such potential was cut short.

"Ben's story highlights the vulnerability of some young people to outside influence and our responsibility as adults to treat these youngsters with consideration and respect," he said.

In a joint statement, West Sussex County Council and Tanbridge House School said steps were taken at the time to address the "occasional difficulties" Ben had had on the school bus.

Inquest hears bullied boy was found dying at home.

Family mourns hanged 11-year-old
15 Dec 06 |  Southern Counties

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