Suicide at Airbnb in Aberdeenshire after ‘man brainwashed by websites’ | United Kingdom | News
Angela Stevens’ son Brett spoke to a woman online before traveling more than 300 miles from his home in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, to a holiday home in Aberdeenshire to meet her in person. They rented the chalet – an Airbnb – and committed suicide there by swallowing a deadly substance, an inquest had heard.
But since the death of her 28-year-old son, Ms Stevens has learned he has been spending time on online forums that promote suicide and suicide methods, and help people band together to take their own lives.
But it was not included as evidence in Mr Stevens’ inquest in February last year at North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court.
Many agencies – including the National Crime Agency, two police forces and the government – were aware of concerns about the websites, a Stoke-on-Trent live investigation found. There is no criminal investigation into Brett’s death, but under English law anyone who helps or encourages others to kill themselves could be prosecuted.
Ms Stevens says she and other campaigners against the websites have now managed to identify 21 people who have taken their own lives and who were active users of the sites.
The mother added: “The coroners have failed. Our government has known about the forum for several years and done nothing.
“The website preys on vulnerable people. These people are constantly being told by other members who are not there to kill themselves, they are being pressured. If he had come to me, I would have reported the site .
“They encourage their members to hide the site and get rid of any evidence of the site on their devices.
“They advise them on how you should act in front of your friends, family and medical professionals so they don’t suspect you are going to kill yourself.
“I’ve been sitting here now and going over the last two years, and I’ve seen quite a few inquiries in Stoke-on-Trent where it’s about chemical toxicity, and I know it’s probably (the substance that killed Brett), which indicates to me, people might have been on (the website) or knew people on it.”
Ms Stevens said she believed Brett when he said he was going on vacation to Norway when she last saw him in November 2019.
He was due to return on December 5, but did not show up at the family home in Tunstall.
Worried about Brett – who was diagnosed with autism aged 15 – Ms Stevens made a missing person report to the police.
Staffordshire Police contacted officers in Norway, but a ping to his mobile phone showed the device was in fact in Scotland.
He and the 24-year-old woman he met – who is believed to have flown over the Netherlands – were found at a holiday home in Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Both had died after consuming a deadly substance.
But Ms Stevens, from Tunstall, discovered that since 2018 Mr Stevens has been a member of a particular site which apparently promotes suicide.
The young man – who had been worried about repossessing the family home – had received messages with comments such as ‘your life is not going to get any better’.
“My son left letters and notes in his phone saying the reason he killed himself was because the bank was going to repossess the house,” Ms Stevens added.
“As soon as they know you’re vulnerable and more open to suggestions because of your mental health condition, they pounce on you.
“They are the most sociopathic people in the world. They feel a kind of sadism in other people’s misery, then laugh it off when they go ahead and kill themselves.”
Ms Stevens alerted the Staffordshire Coroner’s Office to the evidence Police Scotland had found on Mr Steven’s phone.
According to Ms Stevens, a report from Police Scotland was sent to the coroner’s office and she was in regular contact with the coroner’s office about what she had learned.
But when the inquest took place in February last year, no mention of the circumstances under which Mr Steven met the woman alongside whom he took his own life, or any evidence regarding the website, was found. was included in the hearing.
Stoke-on-Trent Live has evidence that suggests Staffordshire coroners may have already been aware of such websites before Brett died.
In 2020 Leeds Coroner Kevin McLoughlin wrote to then Health Secretary Matt Hancock following an inquest into the death of Joe Nihill, 23, who took his own life in April 2020.
He had exchanged messages with people on websites similar to the one used by Mr Stevens.
The coroner, Mr McLoughlin, sent a notice under Regulation 28, which requires the recipient to explain what they are doing to prevent future deaths. The notice, outlining serious concerns about websites and access to the substance used in Mr Nihill’s death, was released to the Coroners’ Society.
But the Coroners’ Society did not respond to our inquiries as to whether the notice was distributed to local coroners.
If you are struggling and having suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone and that help is available. Please contact one of the following people. In the UK you can call the Samaritans free of charge on 116 123 (the number will not appear on your phone bill) or email [email protected]. In America, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers that provide 24-hour service through a toll-free hotline at 00-1-800-273-8255. Lifeline is a national charity that provides all Australians in personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13-11-14. Help is ALWAYS available. If you need it, contact us.