Posts from ‘ghetto of the online world’ still affect me – Molly Russell’s father

·3-min read
Molly Russell (Family handout/PA) (PA Media)
Molly Russell (Family handout/PA) (PA Media)

The father of schoolgirl Molly Russell has told an inquest that seeing the material she accessed from the “ghetto of the online world” still affects him now.

Ian Russell was taken through a variety of posts she had engaged with on social media, which were described by the family’s lawyer as a “litany of self-hate”.

Five years on from her death, a packed North London Coroner’s Court was shown material Molly had accessed, including emails sent to her from Pinterest with the headings “18 depression pins you might like” and “new ideas for you in depression”.

Mr Russell said the material his daughter had been exposed to on the internet was “hideous”, adding he was “definitely shocked how… readily available” it was on a public platform for people over the age of 13.

Molly, from Harrow, north-west London, ended her life in November 2017, prompting her family to campaign for better internet safety.

Her father reiterated his desire for reform in a pen portrait, where he urged social media giants to “take all necessary action to prevent such a young life being wasted again”.

Giving evidence from the witness box on Wednesday, Mr Russell said of the material the teenager had engaged with: “It is just the bleakest of worlds. It is not a world I recognise.

“It is a ghetto of the online world.”

Mr Russell said the “algorithms” then recommended similar content.

Coroner Andrew Walker asked Mr Russell if it was fair to describe it as “a world of despair”.

Mr Russell responded: “Absolutely.”

The teenager’s father was taken through his witness statement, which read: “I also looked briefly at Molly’s YouTube account and saw a… pattern – many normal teenage ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, but a similar high number of disturbing posts concerning anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide.

“On the family computer I saw that Molly continued to receive emails after her death from another social media platform, Pinterest.

“I was shocked to see the subject lines of the emails clearly promoting depressing content.”

The family’s lawyer Oliver Sanders KC said the posts saved by Molly on Pinterest were “romanticising self-harm” and were something for people to “keep to themselves”.

Mr Russell responded: “Absolutely. Even though I have seen these before, seeing them again still affects me now. And this is just the 5th of September. This is just a fraction of what Molly was seeing on a daily basis.”

The coroner continued to take the 59-year-old through his statement, in which he said he had believed Molly’s change in behaviour was down to “normal teenage mood swings”.

His words, which were read out to the inquest, said the family began to notice a change in Molly’s behaviour in around the last 12 months of her life, when she became “more withdrawn and spent an increased amount of time alone in her room, but she still happily contributed to family life”.

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquest heard how her mother Janet found her daughter’s body on the morning of her death.

In a statement read out on her behalf by Mr Sanders, Mrs Russell said she screamed when she discovered Molly and told her other daughter “It’s Molly, it’s Molly” when she asked what had happened.

Mr Russell began giving her CPR before paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead.

A statement of a former Metropolitan Police officer was also read to the court by Mr Sanders, in which he said Molly had followed a now suspended Twitter account which “displays depressing quotes”.

Pc Michael Walker said the teenager was also an “avid fan” of American influencer and YouTube star Salice Rose, who, the court heard, speaks about “suicide and depression on a regular basis”.

The inquest, which could last up to two weeks, continues.