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Teen took her own life after ‘upsetting’ Instagram post

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 18, 2022

A teenager took her own life after being told of an Instagram post that had circulated around her Oxfordshire school, an inquest heard.

Emma Boland, 15, was said to have been caused ‘great upset’ by the social media post on January 17, the precise nature of which was not set out by senior coroner Darren Salter this afternoon.

A fellow pupil described the girl, who was born Christopher Boland and was in the process of transitioning from male to female, holding her ‘head in her hands’ and saying the Instagram post had been ‘misunderstood’.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard the teenager returned home to the house she shared with her parents and brother in Bampton at around 3.20pm then left to see a friend about 10 minutes later.

When their daughter had not returned by 6.30pm, her parents tried to contact her and her friends. Her mother, Rachel, ‘found out something had happened at school that day and it was concerning social media’, the inquest heard. She rang the police and reported Emma missing.

Her father, Stuart, discovered his daughter by Shill Brook, around a 20 minute walk from her home. A post-mortem gave the cause of the girl’s death as hanging.

In a statement summarised by the coroner, Mr Boland said Emma had previously struggled with poor mental health. Shortly before Christmas 2021, a few weeks before her death, she decided she wanted to be known as Emma and began the process of transitioning from male to female. “Everyone was very supportive,” her father said. The girl was reportedly a high-achieving student.

The family spent the weekend before her death on Monday, January 17, ‘watching films and building Lego’ together. Her father said: “Emma seemed really happy.”

Emma did not have her phone with her at school on the Monday. However, she was said to have become aware of the Instagram post circulating among pupils at her school during the day.

The post, which did not name anyone directly, was said by Mr Salter to have ‘included details of a past personal relationship that Emma had with a girl of the same age previously’.

One fellow pupil, a 15-year-old boy said Emma told them the post had been ‘misunderstood’ and had her ‘head in her hands’. Another said Emma had asked if she could see the post and said ‘there were some things true, others not’. She was ‘very down in the dumps about it’, he added.

The post was reported to Joe Winter, deputy headteacher, on January 17 by the Year 11 lead, who had been approached by a pupil. Mr Winter was said to have decided that an investigation into the post would continue the following day. The school was informed shortly before 8pm that Emma had been reported missing.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr Salter said it appeared Emma had intended to take her own life but that it had happened ‘in the context of…what appears to be great upset and that, of course, is very, very regrettable indeed’.

He said: “It is right that the school and others review the processes in this sad case.”

Mr Salter expressed his condolences to Mr and Mrs Boland, who attended the inquest via video link.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward