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‘Golden boy’, 16, killed himself after being blackmailed over nude photos

<span>Dinal De Alwis was described by his father as a ‘most caring son’ who got straight A*s in all his GCSEs.</span><span>Photograph: Supplied</span>
Dinal De Alwis was described by his father as a ‘most caring son’ who got straight A*s in all his GCSEs.Photograph: Supplied

A 16-year-old described by his parents as a “golden boy” took his own life after being blackmailed over nude photographs, an inquest heard.

Dinal De Alwis, 16, was found by a coroner to have killed himself in Sutton, south London, in October 2022.

A Metropolitan police investigation found that in the hours before his death, Dinal, who had recently attended an open day at Cambridge, where he had wanted to study economics, had received iMessages from a man who was threatening to send two nude images to “all of his followers” if he did not send him money.

The man was using a virtual private network (VPN) to mask his location, but detectives believe he was “probably based in Nigeria”, it was reported.

The suspect said: “So you think blocking me can stop me? What do you want me to do – you want me to send to all of your followers? Why can’t you just pay me? £100?”

South London coroner’s court heard that Dinal’s mother, father and two brothers had received “goodbye” messages from the 16-year-old in the early hours of 27 October 2022.

His father, Kaushallya De Alwis, who attended the inquest, said: “He messaged my wife and I to say he loved us, and he told his brothers that he loves them, and said they need to ‘look after Mum and Dad’.”

De Alwis said the family, who live in Wallington, near Sutton, reported Dinal as missing to the police, telling officers they had discovered that Dinal had plans to attempt to take his own life after logging into his Snapchat.

“Dinal was the most caring son,” said a tearful De Alwis. “He was bright. He got straight A*s in all of his subjects at GCSEs and was top of the school for English and Economics.

“We come from Sri Lanka, so we were so proud to hear he was so good at English. He was brave. He played for the football and rugby teams at Whitgift school. He never asked for anything from us. He was always happy with what he had.

“His loss is the biggest possible loss. It is so incredibly painful. He was our golden boy. The fact that he ended his life in this way … the world is so cruel.”

Police did not establish how the suspect managed to get hold of the photographs. “It is still a big question mark,” De Alwis said.

Assistant coroner Sian Reeves explained that she had to establish whether or not Dinal had intended to take his life and asked De Alwis if he wanted to offer any of his thoughts on what her conclusion should be. “It sounds like it came as a huge surprise for you all,” she said.

De Alwis responded: “It is a massive surprise for us. He didn’t show any sort of unhappiness at all. I think he wanted to avoid any shame from the images going public.

“I wish he had spoken to us. He had always been so open in the past. But I think when things are happening online, live, it feels like there is no time.”

Discussing the Met police investigation, Reeves said: “Police found that the suspect resided outside of the UK, probably in Nigeria, and had been using various VPNs to mask his location.

“Detectives conducted an investigation, but due to the suspect being out of the jurisdiction, they did not consider there was a realistic prospect of locating the device or succeeding in prosecution.”

London ambulance service was called at 03.35am on 27 October 2022. They arrived in 10 minutes and started CPR, but Dinal was pronounced dead at 04:07am.

Detailing her verdict, Reeves said: “I want to start by saying I have been particularly moved by the evidence of Dinal’s father. The world has lost a bright star – a boy gifted both academically and in sports.”

She went on: “Based upon the findings presented in this inquest, including the CCTV, the iMessages Dinal received, the Google searches he made, and the goodbye messages he sent to his family, I find that he did intend to take his own life. I say that with no criticism to Dinal.

“I record a conclusion of suicide.”

A statement from the Metropolitan police said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Dinal De Alwis following the conclusion of an inquest on Friday 16 February.

“Dinal, aged 16, was found deceased in Sutton on 27 October 2022. An investigation into the circumstances leading to his death was carried out by officers from the Metropolitan police. This established that Dinal had been blackmailed prior to his death.

“Inquiries led officers to indicate the blackmail threats originated in Nigeria; the assistance of the National Crime Agency was sought.

“All investigative lines of inquiry were completed and the investigation is now closed. Any further information that comes to light will be assessed and investigated accordingly.”

• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on 988lifeline.org, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counsellor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org