Suicide  Bullying  depression
Ben's Story
As told by - Olinka Koster

Ben Vodden - 11 years old
Bullycide in the United Kingdom
Found hanged: 
The bullied 11-year-old boy who even the bus driver called names

When Ben Vodden told his mother he was being bullied on the school bus, she advised him to sit next to the driver.

Yet rather than look after him, the driver joined in the taunts and called the 11-year-old names, it has been claimed.

Ben finally was found hanged after enduring months of bullying by pupils on the bus, an inquest heard.

The boy Ė nicknamed Giggles by his family because of his "fun-loving and enthusiastic" nature Ė was found with shoelaces around his neck and tied to his bunk bed.

Since starting secondary school last September, Ben had encountered name-calling, gesturing and swearing on the bus.

The inquest was told that driver Brian McCullough was partly responsible, allegedly calling the youngster "Master Bate", "D***head" and "Billy No Mates".

Benís mother Caroline, 47, said his last words to her were: "Iím sorry, Mummy."

His father Paul, a 57-year-old forestry worker, found him unconscious after returning from work to the family home in Southwater, West Sussex, on December 12.

A pathologist confirmed that Ben died by hanging.

Mrs Vodden, a trainee church minister, told the inquest: "He would say, 'Everybody is being horrid to me, Mummy'. Then he would say, 'I have got no friends'.

"On December 4 he came home from school and he was the most upset I have ever seen him.

"He tried to tear up his bus pass and said, 'Iím never going on that bus again Mummy, I hate that bus, I hate my school'.

"Ben said the bus driver had been calling him Master Bate because he was Ďa little w*****í and everyone else on the bus had started calling him that too."

On December 12, Benís parents received a phone call from the school saying he had been taken off the bus on the way home because he had been hitting the air vent and making a gesture at the driver.

But he refused to explain his behaviour to his mother. "He immediately got very angry and defensive and asked what the school had said," she said.

"He said, 'I wonít tell you and I canít tell you'. I followed him and stopped him from leaving the room and said, 'Sweetheart, you have got to tell me because we canít help you unless you tell me what has happened'."

Ben went into his room but emerged to give his mother a hug and say sorry, before returning to his room and sobbing loudly before he was found dead.

Giving evidence at the inquest in Horsham, West Sussex, bus driver Mr McCullough denied calling Ben Master Bate.

"I feel like I have been put on trial this morning," he said.

"I really did like him and had a lot of time for him. We used to call each other D***heads Ė it was the banter.

"I did say Billy No Mates, but again that was in banter because he was having a go at me at the time. I just said, 'Sit down, Billy No Mates'.

"When I heard about his death I was devastated because to me he was Jack the Lad and the aggressor on the coach."

The inquest heard Ben had been the victim of bullies on the bus who stole his tie the second day after he started at Tanbridge House, a 1,420- pupil state school in Horsham.

On the morning of his death he sent his father a text saying: "Please can you bring my hair gel. PS They are doing it again."

West Sussex Coroner Dr David Shipp recorded an open verdict, saying he was not satisfied Ben had intended to take his own life.

He added: "I believe this story highlights the vulnerability of some young people to outside influence and our responsibility as adults to treat these youngsters with consideration and respect, however hard that can be at the time."

In a statement Mr and Mrs Vodden said: "It has been an extremely traumatic day but we are grateful that all concerned answered the coronerís questions. Ben was being bullied and some of those incidents occurred at school and on the school bus.

"When Ben told us people were being horrible to him on the bus, we even suggested to him he sit near the driver where he would be safe.

"The simple fact is that Ben would not be dead if he hadnít been bullied. We strongly believe that."

Why does this sort of thing continue, in the 21st century? The apathy of schools is to blame, mainly, apart from the cruelty of some children to others.

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