A schoolboy hanged himself after he was falsely branded a rapist by fellow pupils after pulling out of a playground drug dealing racket, an inquest heard.
Tom Acton, 16, claimed that he was bullied into taking Ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine in between lessons – yet when his mother, Gaynor, went to see staff at the 1,700 pupil Poynton High School and Performing Arts College in Cheshire, it was alleged that they refused to do anything about it.
When she withdrew the boy from school, false rumours began circulating which alleged the innocent teenager had tied a girl to a tree then sexually assaulted her.
It resulted in mobs of up to 30 angry youths targeting him in the street and turning up at the family’s front door saying they wanted to kill him and ‘get rid of the vermin’.
Tom began to self-harm with a blade and even carved the word ‘rapist’ into his leg. A friend had to stop him jumping from a railway bridge and he considered stepping into the path of heavy traffic.
On October 31, days before he was due to testify at the trial of one of the bullies, Tom was found hanged in his bedroom by his father.
Taken to Stepping Hill Hospital, he died on November 2. Tom’s organs were used to save the lives of eight people.The tragedy occurred just months after Tom gained nine GCSEs.
At an inquest in Warrington, Gaynor Acton questioned why the school refused to accept that they had a problem with drugs – even though the suspected drug dealer's own mother gave staff a similar story.
Mrs Acton, 45, a former company director of a hydraulics firm said that her son had been bullied into taking drugs within the school and had started taking them in 2009.
She added: ‘Tom was getting beat up a lot, being chased a lot, physically and mentally abused on a daily basis.
‘There were lots of police incidents recorded, school records. I tried working with the school to start with but the school wouldn't do anything about it, the next line was the police who again did nothing about it.
‘He was on Class A drugs that had been supplied to him from the lads inside of school, MDMA, amphetamines, cocaine, tablets. The only way we could get him to stop was to take him out of school; we took him out for three months.’
Asked by a coroner if he had explained to her why he took the drugs, Mrs Acton added: ‘Because if he didn't he would get bullied – if he did what everyone else did they would leave him alone.
‘Our doctor wrote to the school about peer pressure. But because he wasn't in school taking the drugs that's when they put it out on Facebook that he was a rapist.’
She said Tom had first started talking about suicidal thoughts in February 2013 and added: ‘There were lots of times when he said he was going to do something. He never showed me any of the self-harm. It was only what he had told me. He just couldn't sleep.
‘Tom couldn't have a girlfriend because he was 'a rapist'. That's how the rest of the people saw him in Poynton. He loved going out with girls before the rapist allegations.’
She also confessed to buying cannabis for Tom in an effort to help his recurring insomnia.
Dr David Ward, Tom's GP, said: ‘He told me that he was the victim of bullying and other children had offered him drugs and cigarettes. He said he was being intimidated by a school pupil that was actively seeking him out and verbally and physically abusing him.
‘His mum alleged they were spreading rumours that he was a dirty rapist – he was struggling to concentrate and his mood was low. He described it as being dead inside.
In July 2013, she said Tom left Poynton and began studying music production and sound technology at South Manchester College– but had never got over the false rape allegations.
‘He was very excited about leaving school, he couldn't wait to get away from it,’ said his mother. ‘He was ecstatic that he was leaving school and he wouldn't have to go back.
‘The bullies didn't know how to get to him since he left school.
‘But as regards the rape allegations, he was very upset and he never actually got over that. It was always on his mind.
‘I want to know, why, when presented with physical evidence of drug taking in the school, the school refused to accept it had a problem and no action was taken.’
Holly Spicer, Tom's ex-girlfriend, told the hearing: ‘About one month or so before his death I was talking to him in the kitchen and he was talking about the rapist allegations.
‘He said he cut 'rapist' into his leg and also showed the marks on his wrist. He said he was sorry, I can't quite remember why. He spoke how he was beginning to believe the rumours himself.’
Another friend Jake Dwight said that Tom had been feeling worried about testifying against teenager Thomas Greenwood, 18, who gave him a hiding whilst shouting: ‘If I see you, you are dead.’
Jake said: ‘I knew he was very worried about the upcoming case.
‘A couple of people sat at the gates waiting for him, his mother had to pick him up.
Tom's father Paul, a mechanical electrical manager, was asked if Tom had been anxious about the court case and he said: ‘Not for himself. We had spoken about it. I had asked him during the week if he was still okay with it and he said he was a bit nervous.’
He added that he had become a ‘prisoner in his house’ for three years before his death because of the rumours.
He said: ‘He was a very outgoing person, he made friends very easily. But because of the slander and the rumours that were spread he was isolated from everybody for the last three years of his life.
‘He never went around Poynton on his own, we had to pick him up and drop him off.’
Poynton High School headmaster David Waugh who was appointed after Tom left claimed school files showed the teenager had been both the ‘victim and the perpetrator’.
He said there were, ‘various incidents where it was six of one and half a dozen of the other’.
Mr Waugh said: ‘There were similar incidents where he had been bullied, where he had been verbally abused.
‘On a one to one basis Tom was exceptionally pleasant and engaged. His behaviour deteriorated in groups or class, or with a teacher he didn't get on with.’
Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg adjourned the inquest to call Sue Adamson, the former headmistress of Poynton, to answer Mrs Acton's claims.
At Macclesfield magistrates court in December Thomas Greenwood admitted assaulting Tom and was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. There is no suggestion he was dealing drugs to Tom.
On Monday Fatimah Ahmed, 30, a former maths teacher at the same school, was given an 18-week sentence suspended for two years after she pleaded guilty to one count of concealing, disguising, converting, transferring or removing criminal property between November 2010 to February 2013 - relating to drugs money put into her bank account by her husband.