Home » Molly Russell’s Father Tells Inquest His Daughter, 14, ‘battled Her Demons’ As He Speaks At Inquest

Molly Russell’s Father Tells Inquest His Daughter, 14, ‘battled Her Demons’ As He Speaks At Inquest

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Tragic schoolgirl Molly Russell ‘hid her demons’ from her family while researching depression and self-harming online, her father said today, as the inquest into her suicide finally got underway.

The hearings at North London Coroner’s Court are set to determine if social media algorithms played a role in her untimely death at the age of 14.

Speaking today, Ian Russell told the court how Molly ‘battled her demons’ but ultimately killed herself in November 2017 due to the ‘isolation she felt so deeply.’

Molly, from Harrow, is known to have viewed material linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before ending her life, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

Previous hearings heard how the schoolgirl had engaged with tens of thousands of social media posts in the six months before she died, including content which ‘raised concerns’.

Executives from Meta and Pinterest have been ordered by the coroner to fly in from the US to give evidence about how algorithms used by social media firms keep people hooked and may have contributed to Molly’s death.

Molly’s family also want the inquest to consider 29 internal Meta documents which allegedly set out research into the impact of self-harm and suicide of material online on teenagers.

Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, is known to have viewed material linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before ending her life in November 2017

Molly Russell’s inquest could prove a ‘watershed moment’ for the accountability of tech giants

In a world first, the inquest into Molly Russell’s suicide will see social media bosses questioned under oath over how their products might have contributed to the death of a child.

Executives from Meta and Pinterest have been ordered by the coroner to fly in from the US to give evidence about how algorithms used by social media firms keep people hooked and may have contributed to Molly’s death.

Molly’s family also want the inquest to consider 29 internal Meta documents which allegedly set out research into the impact of self-harm and suicide of material online on teenagers.

Previous hearings have heard how Molly used her Instagram account up to 120 times a day in the six months up to her death, while using Pinterest more than 15,000 times over the same period.

Coroner Andrew Walker warned some of the content was ‘pretty dreadful’ and difficult even for adults to consume for extended periods of time.

Some experts believe the inquest, which is being closely followed in the US, could prove to be a ‘watershed moment’.

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: ‘Molly’s death is a tragedy that is all too relatable to all parents who worry about the risks their children face online.

‘For the first time we will see big tech representatives questioned under oath about how their products may have contributed to the death of a child.’

A Meta spokesperson told the BBC: ‘Our deepest sympathies remain with Molly’s family and we will continue to assist the coroner in this inquest. We have never allowed content that promotes or glorifies suicide and self-harm.’

Pinterest told BBC News: ‘Combating self-harm is a priority for us as we strive to ensure that Pinterest plays a positive role in people’s lives.’

Jud Hoffman, Head of Community Operations at Pinterest, and Liz Lagone, Head of Health and Wellbeing Policy at Meta will give evidence during the inquest, set to last over a week.

Lawyers for the companies were present at the hearing on Wednesday, while more than 40 people – mostly journalists, including from the US – packed out the small court.

Speaking at the inquest today, Mr Russell said: ‘It is nearly five years since Molly died. Five years ago the Russell family life was unremarkable.

‘Yet imperceptibly our adorable youngest family member, Molly, had been struggling with her mental health and hiding her struggles from the rest of us while she battled her demons in the hope of finding peace.

‘As Molly’s feeling of worthlessness grew and her sense of helplessness deepened, ending her life seemed to her like a solution, while to us her life seemed very normal.

‘It’s all too easy to dwell on the events that led Molly to end her life.

‘It’s all too easy to forget the person she really was: someone full of love and hope and happiness, a young person full of promise and opportunity and potential.’

Mr Russell said four school-age children end their lives by suicide every week in the UK.

He said Molly had been ‘struggling with her mental health.’

He said: ‘It was clear that she often took the lead but she was not demanding or pushy as a child.

‘Molly was undeniably a favourite to many of her teachers. She was an easygoing young girl. She was happy in her own company.

‘She loved being with her sisters just as they loved being with her.’

He added: ‘She was always the one who could be relied on to snuggle up to you on the sofa. She was self-supporting and capable.’

As the inquest opened today, Mr Russell recited a poem Molly’s school friends wrote for her funeral.

He said: ‘Our best friend, Molly. Thank you. Thank you for inspiring us to face our fears, for encouraging us to grow.

‘Thank you for showing us that we can get through the rain… and for believing in ourselves.’

Mr Russell said his daughter ‘will always be loved deeply and whole-heartedly.’

He added: ‘Her death is tragic but it is by remembering her life that she will remain with us forever.’

He said her death was a mark to people that it was ‘OK not to be OK’.

Ian Russell outside North London Coroner’s Court on Monday, ahead of inquest into his daughter’s suicide

Mother of Molly Russell ‘screamed’ when she discovered her daughter’s body

The mother of Molly Russell, who took her own life five years ago after reading social media posts related to depression and suicide, has recalled the harrowing moment she discovered her daughter’s body.

In a statement read out on her behalf at North London Coroner’s Court, Janet Russell recalled how on the day of Molly’s death, she was doing household chores and said goodbye to one of her other daughters who was leaving for school.

She then began looking around the house for Molly, but could not find her.

Her statement said: ‘I knew then something wasn’t right.

‘I saw a load of her clothes on the floor (of her bedroom). For some reason I thought Molly had run away.

‘As I looked in her room, I found her … I had no doubt it was her.’

Mrs Russell said she began calling out her daughter’s name when she discovered Molly had died.

In a statement read out on her behalf by Oliver Sanders KC, Mrs Russell said: ‘I screamed and ran out of the room. Ian (Molly’s father) came upstairs and I told him not to go into the room, but he did.

‘My other daughter asked what’s happened and I said: ‘It’s Molly, it’s Molly’.

‘Ian took Molly down and began giving her CPR while I called the ambulance. They gave us advice.

‘Soon afterwards, a paramedic arrived and began giving her CPR.’

Also during the inquest, Molly’s father Ian read out tributes to Molly from her friends and family.

In a message, which was written by Mrs Russell, Mr Russell told the court: ‘Molly, you are such a special person and loved by everyone. I’m sure I speak for everyone here today that we all miss you so much and you will always be remembered as a fantastic, caring, beautiful and thoughtful young lady.

‘I will miss you saying the words ‘I’m always good’ whilst smiling and fluttering your eyelashes innocently at me. I love you Molly.’

Mr Russell told the inquest: ‘It is important to talk to someone trained or qualified whenever it is needed.’

He raised a statistic from the Mental Health Foundation which estimated that one in 15 people in the UK will attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

He added: ‘No-one is immune from such tragedy, it is closer to all of us than we would care to think, and breaking the stigma that surrounds mental health, self-harm and suicide is literally vital.’

Mr Russell has said he was keen that lessons be learned following the death of his daughter Molly.

He told the court: ‘Just as Molly would have wanted, it is important to seek to learn whatever we can and then to take all necessary action to prevent such a young life being wasted again.’

He added: ‘Her life mattered and her place in the world will remain as important as it always was.

‘Although her story is not the one any of us would have chosen to tell, and it is different to the one she would tell herself if she were still here, it will be just as powerful and influential.

‘For those who knew Molly, never forget the adorable young woman Molly was.

‘Never forget her caring nature. Never forget how great a friend Molly was to so many.

‘For everyone touched by her story, remember there’s always help and hope. Remember to live long and stay strong as Molly wished.’

In a statement read out to the court on behalf of Molly’s mother, Janet, she recalled the harrowing moment she discovered her daughter’s body.

Mrs Russell said on the morning of her daughter’s death, she was doing household chores and said goodbye to one of her other daughters who was leaving for school, before she began looking around the house for Molly, but could not find her.

Her statement said: ‘I knew then something wasn’t right.

‘I saw a load of her clothes on the floor (of her bedroom). For some reason I thought Molly had run away.

‘As I looked in her room, I found her … I had no doubt it was her.’

Janet Russell said she began calling out her daughter’s name when she discovered Molly had died.

In a statement read out on her behalf by Oliver Sanders KC, Mrs Russell said: ‘I screamed and ran out of the room. Ian (Molly’s father) came upstairs and I told him not to go into the room, but he did.

‘My other daughter asked what’s happened and I said: ‘It’s Molly, it’s Molly’.

‘Ian took Molly down and began giving her CPR while I called the ambulance. They gave us advice.

‘Soon afterwards, a paramedic arrived and began giving her CPR.’

Molly’s father Ian also read out tributes to Molly from her friends and family today.

In a message, which was written by her mother, Mr Russell told the court: ‘Molly, you are such a special person and loved by everyone.

‘I’m sure I speak for everyone here today that we all miss you so much and you will always be remembered as a fantastic, caring, beautiful and thoughtful young lady.

‘I will miss you saying the words ‘I’m always good’ whilst smiling and fluttering your eyelashes innocently at me. I love you Molly.’

The court previously heard how on Twitter, Molly tweeted or retweeted 460 times, liked 4,100 tweets, was following 116 accounts and had 42 followers.

She was a much more active user of Pinterest, with more than 15,000 engagements, including 3,000 saves, in the last six months of her life.

Molly did not have a Facebook profile.

But in the last six months of her life she was engaging with Instagram posts about 130 times a day on average.

This included 3,500 shares during that timeframe, as well as 11,000 likes and 5,000 saves.

The inquest, expected to last up to two weeks, continues.

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