Facebook taunts ‘led to suicide’

A MOTHER is calling for a change in the law to protect victims of online bullying after a close friend took his own life following Facebook taunts.

Stephen Taylor was discovered dead at his home in Battle High Street on November 10 last year after taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs.

In the month before his death, Mr Taylor, 55, had become the target of a hate-campaign on social networking website Facebook.

Mr Taylor, who could not work because of recurrent depression and serious heart problems, took the insults very personally.

Laura Hooton, a close friend and former partner to Mr Taylor, said: “It was quite traumatic for him.

“Steve was not well, but those (messages) pushed him over the edge.”

A man was questioned over the Facebook posts following Mr Taylor’s death, but no charges were ever brought.

Speaking to the Observer after last week’s inquest, Laura, who has three daughters with Mr Taylor, said she felt the law had failed the family.

She said: “I think the law should be changed, because there seems to be no re-dress.

“It was not just a matter of someone not liking someone, or disagreeing with someone, it was so spiteful.”

Laura, of Lower Lake, tried to contact the website administrators after the messages first appeared, but with no success.

She said: “You cannot get in touch with Facebook.

“It’s very difficult to contact them.”

Laura, who had known Mr Taylor since 1986, paid tribute to her friend.

She said: “He was a kind man, he loved his family and tried to protect us the best way he could.

“He was very unassuming. A shy person who will be much missed by us.”

Although Laura and Mr Taylor split up in 1995, they saw each other almost every day, and he was a devoted dad to the couple’s 17, 19 and 23-year-old daughters.

Laura said: “We had been separated for quite a few years.

“But we were very good friends and he was always down here helping out.

“He was a vegetarian, quite socialist in his views, quite a caring person.

“He used to come and cook for us, he loved working in the garden and dog walking, and he looked after me after I had an operation last year.

“The children really miss him.”

Birmingham-born Mr Taylor, whose mother and sister still live in the city, was a familiar sight to many as he could often be seen cycling along Battle High Street.

His other passions were music and cooking.

Laura added: “The first Christmas without him and that was really hard.

“On Christmas Eve he would have been cooking for us.

“We went out for dinner and it was very empty coming back, knowing he was not here. That was tough.

“We always spent Christmas and birthdays together and when the children were young, we had holidays together as well.”

She added: “Everybody was really shocked and we miss him a lot.

“He was a good man. A kind man.”

Laura thanked Battle police for their support, particularly Sergeant Dan Russell and PC Karen Heyes.

She said: “Particularly Dan Russell has been in here a lot these last couple of months.

“He phoned me up, he’s seen my daughter, he’s come round quite a few times.

“He’s a very nice person and has been very, very supportive.”