Suicide video warning after 'introverted and sensitive' teenager took his own life by walking into a river
PUBLISHED: 11:56 01 February 2019
A teenager who had been watching online videos promoting suicide by walking into water subsequently took his own life by entering a river and drowning.
Now a Norfolk coroner has voiced her concerns as to how easy it is for young people to access suicide videos on the internet and be influenced by them.
The hearing comes in the same week that social media giants were warned by the Health Secretary to purge their sites of self-harm and suicide material, or face legislation.
Claudiu Cristea, 18, of Yarmouth Road, Norwich, was found dead in the river at Whitlingham Country Park, on September 16, 2018.
He was found by his father Marian Cristea and his second cousin Olimpiu Simion after a frantic search around the marshes on the day he went missing.
At an inquest at Norfolk Coroner’s Court on Thursday, Mr Cristea said in his statement that his son was religious and went to church every Sunday, and that he was “polite, introverted and sensitive” who had no friends and spent a lot of time on his phone.
After his death, Mr Cristea looked through his phone history and found Claudiu had been watching videos advising viewers to sacrifice their life to God.
“We discovered some videos which explicitly showed people walking towards the water,” Mr Cristea told the hearing. “And in those videos the water was presented like a symbol for God’s world.
“He also saw videos in which it was explained God forgave those who commit suicide.”
He also found videos posted on Claudiu’s Facebook page which depicted Christian sectarian messages and found these written in his diary.
“We didn’t think anything serious or dangerous was going on,” Mr Cristea said. “He never made us think something like that was going on.”
Claudiu had moved to Norwich from Romania to join his family in July 2018 and started working as an assistant chef at a pizza place near Norwich railway station.
Mr Cristea said Claudiu enjoyed his time in England and particularly liked going to the seaside in Cromer and Great Yarmouth.
“He liked England very much,” he added. “We found afterwards written in his diary and notebooks that England was his favourite country.”
From time to time, Claudiu would reveal thoughts of wishing he was never born, but Mr Cristea said this did not worry the family as they described him as a sensitive person, stating: “He felt sorry for people who lived in hardship.”
There was only one occasion, around a month before he died, when Claudiu showed any sign of distress.
In Olimpiu Simion’s statement, which was read out in court, he said the landlord above Claudiu’s flat heard a loud scream while the teenager was at home.
When Claudiu was asked about what happened, he responded he wanted to harm himself but that he could not do it because he loved his family and his sister.
Mr Simion added: “We spoke about it and he said it was a stupid thing to say and not to mention it again.”
On September 16, Claudiu had returned home at 3am after finishing work and spoke briefly to his sister, kissed her forehead as she slept and walked out of the door.
At around 6am, Mr Cristea went looking for him with Mr Olimpiu after finding a note in the kitchen in which Claudiu stated he had chosen to “travel back to my heavenly father”.
Mr Cristea and Mr Simion searched the house, city centre and the marshes around Whitlingham Broads until they found his lifeless body in the river. “What ended up happening seems completely out of the blue,” Mr Simion said. “He was very loved by his family.”
A post mortem report confirmed the medical cause of death as drowning and a toxicology report showed he had no drink or drugs in his system.
Assistant coroner Johanna Thompson gave the conclusion that Claudiu died as a result of suicide, stating there was clear indication he had been influenced by the videos he watched online.
She said: “I do express concern that young people such as Claudiu are so easily able to access video recordings on the internet regarding suicide and other related content which may influence their behaviour and action.”
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, last weekend wrote to social media bosses warning them action is “urgently” needed to ensure they do not breach the policies of internet providers.
In the letter, Mr Hancock expressed his growing concern over harmful content online, and stated it is “appalling” how easy it is to access content that “leads to self harm and promotes suicide”.
Shortly after his death, a shrine with flowers and candles were placed by the River Yare close to where Claudiu had died.
The memorial was first spotted on September 18, just two days after his body was found.
It showed a picture of the teenager with the message “dumnezeu sa te ierte” printed on the image - which translates to “may god forgive you”.
The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.