Grieving father of Durham student who died outside club hits out at Facebook over trolling

A dad has criticised Facebook after a "sick sadist" admitted posting offensive material about his dead 20-year-old daughter.

Thursday, 30th August 2018, 2:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th August 2018, 2:36 pm
Olivia Burt's parents have described her as 'a wonderful young woman' following her tragic death in February.

Paul Hind, 38, called Olivia Burt, a Durham University student who died from head injuries after an incident outside the city's Missoula nightclub in February, a "sex worker" and "prostitute" on the social media site.

South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday that the defendant, of Westacres in Wark, north of Hexham, also doctored an image of the dead woman and posted pictures of children who were "clearly terminally ill" on her Facebook page on April 20.

Nigel and Paula Burt, the parents of Durham University student Olivia Burt, who died outside a nightclub, leave South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court, where Paul Hind, 38, admitted trolling relatives of young people who died in tragic circumstances. Photo by Press Association.

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Speaking after Hind had admitted four separate offences of conveying false information which was indecent or grossly offensive, relating to four dead people, Nigel Burt, from Hampshire, said his actions were a "desecration" of his daughter's memory.

Describing how the postings had made him and Ms Burt's mother, Paula Burt, feel "physically sick", he said: "The person who carried out this trolling can only be described as a sick sadist who knows that they are adding to our anguish and gets enjoyment out of this.

"Even though the Facebook posts have now gone, we keep expecting them to reappear on some other social media platform.

"This is causing us continuing anxiety and distress."

A photo of Olivia Burt, issued by the Royal Yachting Association, as it paid tribute to her earlier this year.

Mr Burt added: "We would also like to say that our dealings with Facebook have compounded our misery."

He said the social media giants only tackle individual posts and not "overall trolling", describing this method as "hopeless".

As well as Ms Burt, 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.

The other counts 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 earlier this year.

Paul Hind, 38, speaks to the media outside South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court, where he admitted trolling relatives of young people who died in tragic circumstances. Photo by Press Association.

District Judge Kate Meek sent the case to Newcastle Crown Court for sentence on September 27, and praised the Burt family for sitting in on the proceedings.

Judge Meek also passed on her "deepest condolences" for the loss of their daughter and said that the defendant had only added to the "already unimaginable" pain that they were suffering.

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

Describing how he was suffering from mental health issues and was "highly intoxicated" at the time of the offences, he said: "All I can say to the families for the actions I have committed is sorry, that is all I can say - sorry.

A photo issued by Police Scotland of Duncan Sim, whose remains were found at West Sands in St Andrews earlier this year.

"I don't expect them to accept any apology from me whatsoever for what I have done."

When asked whether his actions could be seen as worthy of a jail sentence, he said: "From my point of view, personally, and for what I did, I would say yes.

"I do deserve a punishment, and I don't just deserve a punishment of being banned from social media, trying to apologise to the parents and forgetting about the whole thing.

"I have to be punished accordingly for causing people the anxiety and the stress I have caused them, there's no question about that."