The mother and stepfather of Alex Wildman, Justine and Bill Kelly, outside the Ballina Courthouse yesterday.
The mother and stepfather of Alex Wildman, Justine and Bill Kelly, outside the Ballina Courthouse yesterday. Doug Eaton

'Bullies killed my son': inquest

ON THE winter morning that Justine Kelly discovered her 14-year-old son's body in the family garage, she told police school bullies were responsible for his death, an inquest has heard.

The inquest into Alex Wildman's tragic suicide in July 2008 at his Goonellabah home opened yesterday with damning evidence of repeated bullying and violence against the teenager.

According to the officer in charge of the investigation, Constable Amanda Vidler, a distraught Mrs Kelly told police on the morning her son's body was discovered: “He was beat up at school yesterday. Now look at him. This is what killed him.

“He was being bullied at school and this is why he is dead. They have a lot to answer for.”

It emerged yesterday that Alex had been bashed at Kadina High School less than two days before his death - and that the assault was captured on a mobile phone.

But Constable Vidler told the inquest that Kadina High vice-principal Brad Farrell had deleted the footage immediately after the assault to prevent it being forwarded to other students by mobile phone and the Internet.

Described as complex, sensitive and intelligent, Alex had been the victim of bullying before.

“Nasty things, hurtful things were being said to Alex over the Internet and these things can best be described in the parlance of these times as cyber-bullying,” counsel assisting the coroner, Peter Hamill SC, said.

Mr Hamill said the inquest would probe the systems schools and teachers had in place to deal with bullying.

“A great deal of the evidence will concern the fact that Alex was being bullied at school and on the Internet, and that he was bashed at least twice in the weeks leading up to his death,” he said.

“The inquest will also examine evidence about this bullying and what the family and the school knew about it and were doing about it.

“Issues may lead the inquest to some conclusions of whether or not there were systematic failures which may have contributed to (his) death.”

Related: Bullying memories torment 23-year-old

Constable Vidler said the school had stated that concerns about Alex only came to its attention on the day of the assault on school grounds.

But the inquest also heard that Alex's former schools in Sydney had records of the boy being bullied and harassed.

The child's family, which has since moved from the Lismore area to escape threats and intimidation, still suspects foul play.

They say at least one witness heard young, male voices near the house around the time of Alex's death.

Outside the court, Mrs Kelly said day one of the hearing had been 'gruelling, exhausting'.

“I'm hoping it'll get some changes made in policies and procedures and in the Juvenile Justice Act,” she said.

But she was also hopeful the inquest would lead to changes in education department guidelines, and help 'parents have more of an awareness of what's happening and make sure their children don't bully'.

“Alex was a beautiful kid,” she said.

“You wouldn't wish this upon your worst enemy. I wouldn't want anybody to go through what our family's going through.”

The inquest in Ballina, before Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson, is expected to hear evidence from more than 40 witnesses.

It continues today.

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