A SCHOOLGIRL who took her own life was the victim of a protracted campaign of bullying, an inquest into her tragic death has heard.

Lauren Lelonek, 16, was found dead at her Rudheath home on June 10, 2016 after suffering threats, verbal abuse, physical assaults and more throughout her time in Year 11 at what was the University of Chester Academy Northwich (UCAN).

The now-dissolved University of Chester Academies Trust (UCAT) admitted failings in its treatment of the issue, as did Cheshire Police and medical services which Lauren and her family sought out.

Recording his conclusion of suicide at the end of a four-day inquest in Warrington, coroner Peter Sigee passed on his condolences and thanked the family and witnesses.

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He said: “Lauren was an intelligent, smart and beautiful girl who was caring and supportive of those around her.

“From the start of Year 11 Lauren was aware of threats of bullying to her best friend. By standing by her, she too became a victim.”

READ >>> How police, school and healthcare services failed Lauren

Lauren’s family were present in court as evidence was heard, detailing shortcomings in UCAN’s anti-bullying policy, Cheshire Police’s investigations and the referral system for children struggling with mental health problems.

In all three cases, Lauren’s death has brought about serious change, leading Mr Sigee to assert that ‘opportunities were missed’, and various witnesses to acknowledge that contributing factors in Lauren’s death ‘would not happen now’.

Mr Sigee said: “While I have been concerned with matters as they were in 2015 and 2016, I have heard detailed evidence from the school, the police and the healthcare providers about substantial changes that have been made since, and largely as a result of, Lauren’s death."

After a friendship group split in the summer of 2015, between Lauren’s time in Year 10 and Year 11, she and best friend Libby Boland were targeted by those the had previously spent time with.

2017 >>> Bullies who attacked and harassed Lauren Lelonek walk free from court

Libby told the inquest she felt let down by the school, and that the series of events had been treated as ‘schoolgirls being schoolgirls’.

Lauren was physically attacked in and out of school in October, December and February and threatened on a number of occasions, telling family and friends she was too scared to leave the house alone in case something happened.

One report made to the police was withdrawn by Lauren, while another was dropped due to insufficient evidence. Despite this, two girls were convicted of harassment and given community orders a year after Lauren’s death.

She had confided in Libby in April that she had been self-harming and couldn’t remember the last time she had felt happy, although family and friends said she had seemed brighter since the bullies had been moved to a different part of the school in February.

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An assault in front of teachers had seen the bullies taken to a closed-off part of UCAN and kept away from the rest of the school, but Libby said they would still seek Lauren out after school.

On June 10, after sitting a science exam at UCAN, Lauren messaged Libby that she was feeling low, before the messages stopped. Her body was found later that day along with two handwritten notes, with a pathologist giving the cause of death as hanging.

Earlier in the hearing, the court heard from Lauren’s parents about her kind and caring nature.

Sarah Lelonek said: “She was a kind, honest, caring girl with a big heart, who always put others before herself.”

Husband Ian added: “We have lost the most beautiful, kind-hearted young lady you could ever meet. I am blessed to say she was my daughter.

Best friend Libby, who said the pair leaned on each other for support during the bullying campaign, told the court in a statement that Lauren was ‘just amazing’.

“There are so many good things to say about her,” she said. “She was the most caring person I ever met."

The North West Academies Trust (NWAT) took on the school last year and has made significant improvements to safeguarding.

A spokesman said: “We offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lauren. 

“Rudheath Senior Academy joined NWAT in November 2018, and the safeguarding of all young people who attend the school is our fundamental priority.

“New structures, practices and procedures have been implemented to make the school as safe as it can possibly be for all the children who attend, now and in the future."