Family of dead student Olivia Burt criticise Facebook over ‘sadist’ troll

Facebook blasted for letting an internet troll abuse the memory of the student who was crushed to death outside a nightclub

Parents of Olivia Burt, who died outside a Durham nightclub, complain of inaction as man admits online abuse


The parents of a student who was crushed to death outside a nightclub have criticised Facebook for letting an internet troll abuse the memory of their daughter.

The father of Olivia Burt, a 20-year-old Durham University student who died in February, said dealing with the social media company had “compounded our misery”.

They spoke after Paul Hind, 38, appeared in court to admit posting offensive material about the student and three other dead young men and women.

Using a false name, Hind called Burt a sex worker and defaced a picture of her while posting images of terminally-ill children on her Facebook memorial page.

Nigel and Paula Burt, who attended the hearing before South East Northumberland magistrates on Thursday, said: “The trolling of our wonderful daughter, Olivia, is a desecration of her memory and character.

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“It has made both of us feel physically sick and caused us huge suffering. Her death is still very recent and causing us tremendous heartache as we struggle to come to terms with our loss.

“The person who carried out the trolling can only be described as a sick sadist who knows that they are adding to our anguish and gets enjoyment from this.”

Burt’s parents said they were suffering continuing anxiety by expecting the offensive posts to reappear – and said Facebook executives had not responded to their repeated pleas for help.

They said: “Our dealings with Facebook have compounded our misery. They only tackle each individual issue and not the overall trolling. This is hopeless because as each offensive post and fake profile is removed, a new one appears within minutes.

“The senior Facebook executives we contacted in our attempt to stop the trolling have a total disregard for us, as exemplified by the fact that, even now, they have not replied to our communications.”

The court heard that Hind also targeted a tribute page for Hannah Witheridge, a 23-year-old who was killed on the Thai island of Koh Tao in 2014.

Hind’s other guilty pleas related to the deaths of Joe Tilley, 24, who was found dead at the bottom of a waterfall in Colombia in May, and 19-year-old Duncan Sim, whose remains were found at West Sands in St Andrews in June.

The district judge, Kate Meek, sent the case to Newcastle crown court for sentencing on 27 September and praised the Burt family for sitting in on the proceedings.

Meek also passed on her “deepest condolences” to the Burt family for the loss of their daughter and said the defendant had added to their “already unimaginable” pain.

Speaking outside the court after the hearing, Hind said he was “deeply sorry” for his actions and that he had done them “for attention”.

An investigation into the tragedy outside the Missoula nightclub is yet to be completed, and the Burts, from Hampshire, said they hoped those responsible would be held to account.

Their daughter sustained fatal head injuries after being trapped under a metal barrier outside the venue in Durham.

 

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