A pre-inquest hearing into the tragic death of JFS pupil Mia Janin has heard how Snapchat accounts that may contain vital evidence were deleted on the instruction of teachers just five days after the 14-year-old took her own life.
Detective Inspector Gail Steele, who heads the Metropolitan Police investigation into Mia’s death, informed the hearing, which was observed via Zoom by the Janin family, that members of the Kenton school’s staff had told pupils to delete the information, in line with new regulations giving schools authority to delete pupils’ social media content.
Appeals to social media companies Mia and her classmates used to release key data have not been granted and coroner Andrew Walker was asked to put the companies on notice for data to be retained for the ongoing police investigation. It was also revealed in court that police are waiting for statements from other adult witnesses and an unnamed rabbi.
The hearing was adjourned until 15 September.
Mia took her life on 12 March 2021, one day after returning to the school at the end of lockdown last year. Her father, Mariano, is now pleading with parents and pupils at the Kenton school to come forward to help him to discover why.
He believes toxic social media posts or videos may have led to the death of the Year 10 pupil, whom fellow students said had been a victim of bullying.
“This whole experience has been a nightmare too horrible to explain,” Mariano told The Sunday Times. “Every day feels like I’m living in slow motion. Parents with information – please take it to the coroner. We need to know what happened for the sake of other children and also for Mia. Do not close ranks.”
Mia became the third student at the Jewish state school to die by suicide since 2017.
The night before her death, Mia reportedly asked her parents if she could move to a different school. Investigators found she had sent a voice message to a friend, before the first day back, saying she was “mentally preparing myself to get bullied by him [an unnamed pupil] and all his friends”.
Mariano said he knows Mia logged into a social media app – either Yolo or Houseparty – just hours before her death, but does not know what she saw, sent or received.
Mia’s phone was handed over to police in the wake of her death, but remained locked until Wednesday’s pre-inquest hearing. Mariano hopes investigators will find what prompted his daughter to end her life. He added: “I do not want any other parent to be in my shoes.”
His wife, Marisa, who found Mia, died of an aggressive form of sudden-onset cancer just months after her daughter’s death.
Mia’s death closely resembles that of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old from nearby Harrow who took her own life in 2017 after checking social media posts. Molly’s father, Ian, is supporting the Janin family in demanding answers.
Ofsted investigated JFS after Mia’s death and downgraded it from “good” to “unsatisfactory” and said any students had been subjected to harsh bullying with little to no intervention from staff.
JFS headteacher David Moody told Jewish News: “Following on from comments made to the Sunday Times who recently ran an article on Mia, the school is unable to comment about an ongoing police investigation.”
“As the new headteacher of JFS, I am confident that all possible information has been made available to the police to support them in reaching a conclusion. OfSTED have recently graded JFS as a good school and were pleased with the sustained changes enacted by both Governors and the new leadership team.”
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