In a grotesque incident a 42-year-old British man hanged himself while watched by dozens of internet users, after allegedly being provoked by them. Kevin Whitrick killed himself in his flat in Wellington town at Shropshire, England. The incident was broadcast over the internet on a webcam. Police officials say that Whitrick tied an electrical cord around a ceiling joist and wrapped one end around his neck before hanging himself. According to them, Whitrick is the first person in the UK to commit suicide publicly on the internet.
Investigators have revealed that some users of the website Kel's Friendly Insult Chatroom for Everyone had been ''egging on'' Whitrick when the incident occurred. They say that the internet users thought the man was joking when he said that he was going to take his life. Between 40 to 60 people were logged on to the website at the time of the mishap, but only one of them alerted the police, say officials. The police said that despite attempts to resuscitate him, Whitrick was pronounced dead at the scene.
''Here is a person who, on the face of it, had been hanging himself in front of other people who are watching and only one of these possible people are so concerned as to make contact with the police. It's the sort of site where people seem to enjoy getting verbally abused and having degrading things said. That to my mind is exactly what these people are like. They must be extremely inadequate to have that sort of relationship,” the Telegraph quoted Michael Gwynne, the Telford and Wrekin coroner, as saying. ''It seems to me that the death of Kevin Whitrick should not be allowed to pass without someone trying to see whether it's possible to prevent chatrooms of this nature being on the internet. I am all for communications, but it does seem to me in this instance that abuse, threats of physical injury are not normal within everyday relationships. Thought ought to be given on how such chatrooms can be regulated. I don't have the answer,'' he added.
Whitrick was an electrician by profession, and had a history of depression. He had also attempted to take his life in 2003 after he separated from his wife, with whom he had 12-year-old twins. He was badly injured in a car crash eight months before his death, and had also been deeply affected by the recent death of his father. Police officials have discovered that Whitrick had contacted the site's owner, Kel Buckingham, to tell him that he was going to kill himself on camera. ''This is serious, someone call the police, get his address'' is what Buckingham could be heard saying over the speaker, as the event unfolded. Soon afterwards the webcam feed was stopped by the site’s moderators.
Det Sgt Mark Bellamy of Shropshire police has revealed that a user called Carole Vickers informed the police after hearing Buckingham’s voice. ''She saw Kevin wrapping a noose around his neck and she made desperate efforts to talk him out of it. This is that first case that I am aware of in the UK where somebody committed suicide over the internet,'' he said. Vickers blamed other users for Whitrick’s move, saying that they had goaded the man to kill himself. She revealed that as Whitrick’s body swung from the noose, one mocked: ''He's not dead, he's still twitching.'' The deceased’s elder brother, Malcolm, said that he did not think chatrooms were responsible for his brother's death, but he felt they should still be monitored.