Sean Duffy Jailed For Taunting Natasha Macbryde on her Facebook Homage Page
Sean Duffy, an internet troll who posted videos as well as messages mocking the demise of teenagers, including a girl hit by a train, has been jailed.
Sean Duffy, twenty five, targeted Facebook homage pages and published videos on YouTube taunting the dead and their families.
Among his victims was Natasha MacBryde, 15, who passed away immediately when hit by a passenger train not far from her home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.
The day after Natasha’s death in February, Duffy posted comments including “I fell asleep on the track lolz” on the Facebook tribute page created by her sibling James, 17.
Four days later he created a YouTube video called “Tasha the Tank Engine” featuring her face superimposed on to the front of the fictional engine.
Duffy, who is unemployed and did not know any of his victims, pleaded guilty to two counts of transmitting harmful communications related to Natasha.
He asked for three other cases of Facebook trolling – posting offensive messages on the internet – to be taken into consideration when appeared before magistrates in Reading, Berkshire.
Jailing him for 18 weeks, the chair of the bench, Paul Warren, informed him: “You have induced lots of distress to already grieving friends and family.
“The offences are so serious only a custodial sentence could be justified.”
He went on to say that the case served as an illustration of the “harm as well as damage” that malicious use of social networking websites could do.
Duffy was also given a five-year antisocial behaviour order to prohibit him from creating and accessing social network sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo as well as Myspace. He will also have to inform police regarding any phone he possesses or buys that comes with internet access.
The court heard that Duffy is suffering Asperger’s syndrome and lived a “miserable existence” consuming alcohol alone at his home in Reading.
Joanne Belsey, prosecuting, said Duffy’s series of online attacks began following the death of 16-year-old Hayley Bates, from Staffordshire, who passed away in a car crash in September 2010.
Duffy defaced pictures of the girl, including passes across over her eyes and stitches over her forehead. One caption underneath a image of flowers at the crash site read: “Used car for sale, one useless owner.”
He subsequently went on to concentrate on Lauren Drew, a 14-year-old who died from an epilepsy attack at her home in Gloucester in January.
Duffy posted unpleasant and disturbing pictures relating to her death and for Mother’s Day created a YouTube video with a picture of a coffin saying “Happy Mothers Day”.
Public schoolgirl Natasha MacBryde was his upcoming target. She killed herself after she was sent a message by an anonymous bully on a social networking website. She had also been mocked by members of an all-girl clique at school.
Duffy made a fake tribute page on Facebook and named it Tasha the Tank Engine.
On the official memorial page set up by her brother James he wrote: “I fell asleep on the track lolz,” and posted images of her with text stating she was spoilt. Other trolls joined the abuse.
Duffy’s last target was Jordan Cooper, 14, from Washington, Newcastle upon Tyne, who was stabbed to death.
Duffy created a group called “Jordan Cooper in pieces” with a profile picture of a knife with blood dripping off it. A further YouTube video was also made which included pictures of his eyes crossed out as well as cuts across his face.
Duffy’s lawyer Lance Whiteford said: “In terms of mitigation there is none. I cannot imagine the stress and anxiety caused to the families of these horrible, despicable offences.”
She said his condition meant he was not aware of the effect he was having on the affected individuals.
Duffy had been cautioned for a identical offence in 2009 and Whiteford said he lived an isolated existence and had himself been bullied at school and work.
Speaking outside court, Natasha MacBryde’s father, Andrew, said: “He is a disturbed person who caused the maximum of grief for his own pleasure.
“I believe he must be a very depressed man who unfortunately attempted to get attention through the most disgusting way possible.
“In a way I feel sorry for him and I think he needs some sort of counselling as it is certainly very unusual behaviour.
“I hope his sentencing shows other trollers that they are not private and they will be caught if they carry on their vile games.”
He mentioned he had not been able to watch the Tasha the Tank Engine video as it was too upsetting. Following the sentencing, Lauren Drew’s father Mark spoke of the damage it brought on her family as they struggled to come to terms with her death: “We were already having a hard time. Lauren was my only daughter and I worshipped the ground she walked on and this person was camouflaging behind a personal computer.
“He caused devastation to us and other families; for so many people. It hurts but he sits behind a computer with absolutely no feeling.”
Drew called for the operators of social social networking sites to take more responsibility for their content: “The web is a wonderful thing if used right but as you can see in this case it was used wrongly. These days children live on Facebook, it’s their lives and they’re just so vulnerable.”
After the hearing police said they would continue to track down offenders like Duffy.
Det Ch Insp James Hahn, of Thames Valley police, said: “Clearly this has been a very emotive case, that has caused additional distress and suffering for families who have been trying to cope with the death of loved ones.
“Malicious interaction through social networking is the latest phenomenon and unfortunately shows how technology can be used evilly. However, our investigation has demonstrated that offenders cannot hide behind their computer screens for too long.