Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Saturday, 16 February 2008

Police probing deaths of cousins

Nathaniel Pritchard and Kelly Stephenson
The cousins died within hours of each other

Police are insisting the deaths of two cousins from Bridgend are not linked to 14 apparent suicides in the area over the past year.

Nathaniel Pritchard, 15, died in hospital after "harming himself" and his cousin Kelly Stephenson, 20, was found hanged while on holiday in Kent.

Police said there was no evidence of a link to the other deaths.

A local AM said the suicides were spread county-wide, across a 130,000 population and seemed to be unrelated.

Officers were called to Nathaniel's home in the Cefn Glas area of Bridgend on Wednesday night and he died in hospital after "harming himself".

Friends said Kelly and Nathaniel were "very close".

Relatives confirmed she had been told about what happened to Nathaniel before he died.

Ms Stephenson, who was on holiday in Folkestone, told a relative she was going to the bathroom but when she did not come downstairs they went to investigate and found her dead.

A review by police of other suspected suicides in the area is expected to report next week.

Mark Bennetta
I don't think websites like Bebo have got anything to do with it
Mark Bennetta, friend

But local assembly member Carwyn Jones said it was too early to decide whether a fuller inquiry was needed.

"We're talking about suicides in a county of more than 130,000 people not just the town of Bridgend," said Mr Jones.

"Some of the young people lived a long way apart and police have confirmed this many times.

"What we're looking at here it seems is a number of unrelated suicides. And it's worth emphasising that Bridgend is not way, way ahead of others.

"It was sixth in a table of counties at the last count - not something to boast about. But if it's the case that it looks like this number of unrelated suicides, it's difficult to see what an inquiry at this stage would lead to."

The Bridgend AM said that the county had drawn up a draft suicide prevention strategy and it was "now a question of making sure the strategy was looked at and put into place".

He added that the area had lower unemployment and crime rates than London and local people felt "put upon" with some media coverage.

"There have been a number of lurid stories published in London about internet pacts and deaths cults but there's no evidence of this at all."

One friend of the cousins Mark Bennetta, 23, who knew four of the other young people to have died, said: "I think it must be different reasons for different people, but we'll never know.

"I don't think websites like Bebo have got anything to do with it."

'Taboo conversation'

His friend Darren, 21, who did not want to give his surname, said: "It's just sad. I really feel for the families."

Paul Stockton from Samaritans told BBC Radio Wales that branches across Wales had reported a rise in calls from the under 25s.

Bur he said this could be because of an increased level of awareness of its services among that age group.

And he said he doubted social networking websites were linked to the deaths.

"If we were having this conversation 15 years ago when I was a teenager we would be saying: "Is it the telephone?" My parents could never get me off the telephone.

"It is just the way teenagers nowadays communicate with one another."

He also called for a new approach into understanding suicide, which was still a "taboo conversation".

"One of the things the Samaritans has been trying to do for a number of years is to get people to ring us earlier on in their despair.

  • Anyone worried about these issues can contact Samaritans or refer to advice on the BBC health pages. Bridgend Samaritans can be reached on 01656 662333; Childline is on on 0800 1111 and Papyrus, specialists in preventing young suicide, are on 01282 432555.

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    The two young cousins who have killed themselves


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