Lara may have been bullied online before death: Gardaí

Gardaí have not ruled out the possibility that a girl who took her life in Co Kildare at the weekend may have suffered cyberbullying.

Locals in the Newtown and Kilcock areas of Kildare were yesterday still reeling from the death of Lara Burns-Gibbs, 12, a pupil at Maynooth Post Primary School, who gardaí believe died by suicide at around 9.30pm on Saturday. Her body was found in stables next to her home.

Gardaí are now involved as part of the coroner’s investigation into the case and have made no comment on speculation locally that Lara had been bullied online.

By yesterday afternoon, a tribute page on Facebook had received almost 3,000 “likes” and many of those who contributed made references to bullying.

However, a garda source said the investigation was at “a very early stage” and stressed that it was not clear whether online bullying had taken place.

Describing Lara’s death as “a terrible personal tragedy” that demanded sensitivity from all parties, the source said gardaí would look into the case to establish if Lara had been bullied online.

Her death comes in the wake of two recent schoolgirl suicides, both cases in which cyberbullying was a factor.

Erin Gallagher, 13, from Ballybofey in Co Donegal took her life last month after various postings were made on the Ask.fm website.

In September, Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Leitrim, killed herself following cyberbullying, again on Ask.fm.

This month, Ciara’s father, Jonathan, spoke with Oireachtas members on the issue of cyberbullying and said afterwards he feared more young people would die by suicide following similar abuse.

The parish priest in Kilcock, Fr PJ Byrne, said “the upset was overwhelming”.

“We are just snowed under with sadness, with loss and with mystery,” he said.

Lara had attended primary school in Maynooth. It is understood she only moved to Kilcock in recent years. Her mother Helene, stepfather Noel, father Robert, brother Brendan, and other relatives were being comforted yesterday.

Staff from the National Educational Psychological Service will attend Lara’s school to help students cope with the tragedy.

The principal of Lara’s school, Johnny Nevin, said: “This is a terrible tragedy for Lara’s family, our school and our community. We are deeply saddened by these events. Our sympathy and thoughts are with Lara’s family and friends.

“Lara was a first year student and will be missed by all who knew her. We have been in contact with Lara’s family, and they have requested that we all understand their need for privacy at this difficult time.”

She will be laid to rest in Maynooth. Her removal will take place tomorrow, arriving in St Mary’s Church in Maynooth for Mass at 11am with burial afterwards in Larabryan Cemetery.

Her family have asked that any donations be made to Pieta House, an organisation providing specialised treatment programmes for people who have suicidal ideation or who self-harm.

The National Anti Bullying Coalition said it was awaiting details of an action plan Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said two weeks ago would be completed at the end of this month, and that any such plan needed to include a risk assessment mechanism.

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