The parents of a British teen Olly Stephens have opened up over the tragic death of their son.
Amanda and Stuart Stephens spoke with Erin Molan for her upcoming Sky News documentary, Haters Online: Erin Molan Fights Back, which will be available to stream on Flash.
The 13-year-old was stabbed to death in Reading, England, by two teen boys who recruited a girl to lure him to a field behind his house in January 2021.
According to The Sun, Olly’s family was preparing to go back to work and school after the Christmas break when he received a message.
He told family he would be back before dark. But a short time later, a knock at the door brought his family’s world crashing down.
“Within 15 minutes of him leaving the house there was a sharp knock on the door,” Amanda told the program.
“My instant thought was ‘oh, he’s back soon. He’s come back quickly’
“I went to the door and there was a kid that we knew and he said what happened. And I just thought, has he just said that Olly’s been stabbed?”
For Stuart, he said the loss of his son can’t be explained.
“I watch other dads with their sons and you feel it every time you see that,” he said.
“It’s just a void now.”
Police arrested the 13-year-old girl and two boys aged 13 and 14.
In hundreds of messages and voice notes sent over Snapchat, the two boys revealed how they fell out with Olly online because he had seen an image of a younger boy being mocked and tried to make it stop.
When the two teen boys – who cannot be named for legal reasons – found out about it, they accused him of “snitching on them” and set up a plan for revenge.
The messages show how they recruited a girl – who cannot be named for legal reasons – who knew Olly to get him out of his home and into the open where they would later ambush him, stab him to death and leave him in a pool of blood.
One voice note from the girl says that one of the boys “wants me to set him up” and “I’m so excited you don’t understand”.
“You look at it and think, they’re not gangsters. These are 13, 14 year-old kids living in Reading with families that live in suburbia,” Amanda said.
Around 90 percent of the evidence presented at Olly’s trial came from mobile phones and social media platforms.
One of the pieces of evidence presented at the case was a video of a knife belonging to the 13 year old boy. He posted it on Snapchat the day before Olly was murdered.
“That’s one thing we’ve learned is that a lot of kids post pictures of knives because they want other people to know that they’ve got a knife or would have a knife,” Stuart said.
“So if you’re going to come to them, they’re prepared to come for you.
“It’s nasty. I wouldn’t want to be a teenager now.”
The three teens are serving their sentences at young offender institutions.
According to Amanda, the police interviewed 50 children, of which 41 handsets were seized and data was taken off of them. Around 69,000 pages of data was taken from those phones.
“It’s the communications that have built up and escalated very quickly to deaths happening,” she said.
“If the social media company bosses have been over in the field with us that afternoon and seeing the actual crushing reality of what had been allowed to happen through their posts and things.
“I just feel like they’re being cowardly in not actually addressing the reality of what’s happening.”
Haters Online: Erin Molan Fights Back investigates the sinister and toxic side of social media, and what can be done in the fight against online abuse to make our cyber space safe.
Featuring harrowing accounts from victims of online abuse, the documentary examines how online perpetrators can go unpunished and why it has taken so long to bring about change in the laws.
An advocate for anti-cyberbullying, the Sky News Australia host said that the days of being told to “just ignore it” are over
“Online abuse is dangerous and at its very worst – can kill,” she said.
“Australia has introduced world-first legislation to keep our country, and most importantly, our children safer, but we must keep up the fight to ensure the vile hate stops and perpetrators are held to account.”