Justine Kelly
Justine Kelly

Mother weeps at ‘undeserved treatment’

AFTER two harrowing weeks re-living her son’s suicide, Justine Kelly had the final word at the inquest into his death.

“On Tuesday it would have been Alex’s 16th birthday and I would have been driving him to the RTA to get his Ls,” she said as she wept in the cramped silence of the Ballina court room yesterday.

“Instead, I’m sitting here in the court room wondering why he’s dead.”

Alex Wildman was just 14 years old when, on a wintry night in July last year, he made the decision to take his own life at his Goonellabah home.

“He’s at the forefront of my mind, day in and day out,” Mrs Kelly sobbed.

“He was a beautiful child and he didn’t deserve the treatment that he received.

“He didn’t deserve it.”

With those words, the inquest into the events leading to the teenager’s death was over.

Alex had been a student at Kadina High School for little more than six months, but it was his experiences there – and in the teenage cyberspace world beyond – that defined the investigation into his fatal final decision.

Through the volumes of evidence before the coroner’s court and the testimony of around 45 witnesses over two weeks, the fog surrounding this quiet boy’s life began to lift and a pattern of bullying, teasing and violence emerged.

The inquest heard from the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, who repeatedly punched Alex on two separate occasions in the week leading to his suicide.

The boy alleged Alex had made, through the online social networking website MySpace, a disparaging comment about his mother.

The first assault outside the local shops left Alex, who by all accounts never fought back, with blood on his face.

The final assault on school grounds less than two days before his death was recorded on a student’s mobile phone for distribution among the school population designed to ‘humiliate’ Alex.

It was deleted before it could be forwarded, or viewed by police, on the orders of Kadina deputy principal Bradd Farrell.

Alex went home with his parents that Wednesday and the boy who assaulted him went back to class before being suspended at the end of the day.

There was talk of counselling for Alex the next day – Alex’s last – but the counsellor wasn’t available until the following week.

By Friday morning, he was dead.

And his mother was certain why.

“He was beat up at school yesterday,” she told police on the morning she found her son’s body.

“Now look at him. This is what killed him. He was being bullied at school and this is why he is dead.”

The inquest also heard evidence of ongoing bullying through online chat services, like MSN, and websites like MySpace.

One boy told Alex online that he wanted to ram a trolley into his head.

Alex had moved from Sydney where he had also been a victim of bullying at Ingleburn High School to make a ‘fresh start’ living with his mother and stepfather, Bill Kelly.

The teasing at his new school, the inquest heard, started a few months later.

“He was always heaps quiet and he just stayed to himself all the time,” a boy, who admitted to teasing Alex with words like ‘emo’, said.

“He never ever ever responded to me (teasing) at all.”

One thing was made clear over the past fortnight – no adult in Alex’s life saw his suicide coming.

Kadina’s school counsellor never met him, the head teacher welfare only exchanged words with him on one occasion, the principal did not know him, the deputy principal met him for only the second time two days before he died, the school chaplain had no idea he was being harassed, and his parents thought he was happy to be enrolled in boxing classes the night he decided to kill himself.

But the inquest also heard about family members’ history with anti-depressant medication and Mr Kelly’s nervous break-down some years ago.

Bullying expert and educational psychologist Professor Helen McGrath dismissed the family history.

An ongoing pattern of persecution was the main reason for Alex’s suicide, she said.

Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson is expected to hand down his findings in February.

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