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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Suicide victim 'had been bullied'
The bullying issue appeared to have been settled
The bullying issue appeared to have been settled
A 12-year-old County Antrim boy who took his own life is understood to have been bullied, the BBC has learned.

Aaron Armstrong was a first year pupil at Cambridge House Grammar in Ballymena.

His father found the child's body in a hayshed at the family farm at Broughshane on Monday.

Aaron, who has a younger brother and sister, was buried on Thursday.

A close friend of the family, the Reverend William Dickey, a Presbyterian minister, told the BBC they were finding it very difficult to come to terms with their loss.

"I think there is still a great numbness in the family, something that has affected much wider than the family," he said.

I think he had been held down on the bus and things had been done
Reverend William Dickey

"They are just very much in shock... something like this, with no warning, no indications of any trouble and it has just numbed them."

Reverend Dickey said Aaron, who was a quiet boy and very involved in the farm, had told his parents about bullying last year.

"He had confided in them at that time. They had spoken to the school about it and it seemed as if that issue was settled. Something was done about it.

"Beyond that, things seemed fairly normal. Incidents that happened were put down to what boys will be - boys will be boys."

Mr Dickey said Aaron had come home from school on one occasion and his jacket had been ripped open. He had also come back with his face marked with crayons or chalk.

"I think he had been held down on the bus and things had been done," he said.

"There is some evidence that perhaps some money which was given for lunchtime and pocket money was being taken from him, it seems, even as protection payment."

Open the wounds

The minister said he heard mention of an incident where the little boy had been forced into a luggage compartment on a bus and it had been locked.

But, he said, the family had not been aware of any recent problems and Aaron had been his usual self at the weekend.

"On Monday evening, after family teatime, his father and younger brother had gone off on some errand to do with the farm," he said.

Rumour and speculation does not help the family at this tragic time
Terry Shevlin
Ballymena district commander

"They had returned around 9 o'clock. His dad had gone to the hayshed to find some bales of hay and he found his wee lad in the hayshed."

The minister said the family were plagued by questions.

"There are lots of 'if onlys', there are lots of 'whys'," he said.

"I try to direct them away from those now, because those are things that just keep the wounds open, they continue to bring the hurt."

Ballymena district commander Superintendent Terry Shevlin confirmed that Aaron's death was being investigated on behalf of the coroner.

"We will also be looking at any allegations that emerge during that investigation," he said.

He added that speculation surrounding the death had caused concern to Aaron's family.

"Rumour and speculation does not help the family at this tragic time."

In a statement, the school governors said: "He was a boy who loved practical subjects and was very highly thought of among his peer group and teachers. He will be greatly missed by everyone. A gap has been left in his class and our hearts.

"The family have had close links with the school over the years and they have been in our thoughts and prayers.

"The school has been in contact with the North Eastern Education and Library Board and counselling support has been made available."

Aaron's parents said they wanted to make it clear that the school had been extremely supportive throughout their ordeal, and wished to thank them for that support.

In a statement, bus and rail company Translink said that in the Ballymena area they had no outstanding responses in relation to bullying.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Tara Mills:
"The family say they want the issue highlighted to make sure no other child suffers in the same way"



SEE ALSO:
All schools 'need a counsellor'
01 Dec 03  |  Education
Name-calling 'worst form of bullying'
16 Apr 03  |  Education


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