‘Bullied to death for being ginger’

Nov 28, 2013 by

The grief-stricken father of a schoolgirl found dead in woodland has revealed that she suffered years of torment about her red hair.

Helena Farrell’s body was discovered in a beauty spot behind a hotel in Kendal, Cumbria, earlier this year, about half a mile from her home.

An inquest has yet to establish the cause of the 15-year-old’s death. But her father Edna today said he believed she took her own life and that the bullying she had endured for so long had contributed to her decision.


Helena Farrell allegedly suffered lifelong bullying over the colour of her hair
Her body was found in dense woodland half a mile from her home

Teenager Helena Farrell allegedly suffered lifelong bullying over the colour of her hair – which her father claims contributed to her death

The 15-year-old's body was found in dense woodland half a mile from her home in Kendal, Cumbria
Helena Farrell

The 15-year-old’s body was found in dense woodland half a mile from her home in Kendal, Cumbria



‘People need to realise that when they say the things they do, it can have deeply traumatising effects and can lead to self-harm and suicide’, he said.

‘Helena’s death was not just because of it but the bullying she faced all her life certainly contributed.’

At the time of her death in January, Mr Edna paid an emotional tribute to the ‘beautiful daughter’ he described as ‘the light of my life’.

‘We tried desperately hard to help her overcome her dark thoughts that began to cloud over her shining personality’, he said. ‘My family is totally ripped apart.’


Mr Edna, a former councillor, has called for discrimination against redheads to become a hate crime and highlighted an event last week dubbed ‘Kick A Ginger Day’ as an example of the discrimination they face.

The concept, believed to have been taken from controversial cartoon South Park, encouraged schoolchildren across the country to target other pupils for having red hair.

It is unclear how many attacks took place but Mr Farrell said it had led to one Kendal boy skipping school and leaving early the next day.

In a separate case, an inquest heard last week how 14-year-old Simon Walters killed himself after he was bullied for his ginger hair.

The schoolboy, from Wolverhampton, had even dyed his hair brown in a desperate effort to stop his tormentors.

Mr Farrell believes police forces should also recognise victimisation based on hair colour

Mr Farrell believes police forces should also recognise victimisation based on hair colour


Helena, who was a gifted musician, was bullied about her hair colour from a young age



Mr Farrell’s concerns were echoed by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron who yesterday tabled a written question to Home Secretary Theresa May, asking what plans she had to ensure action was taken against those who persecute others on the basis of hair colour.

In England and Wales, every police service records five categories of hate crimes – crimes targeted because of prejudice about race or ethnicity, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender identity. But individual forces can choose to add extra categories.

In April, Greater Manchester Police recognised ‘alternative sub-cultures’ as a motivation for hate crime.

It followed the death of Sophie Lancaster, 20, who was attacked for being a ‘goth’.

Greater Manchester Police received eight reports of hate crime against goths, emos, rockers and metallers in the first three months after they recognised alternative sub-cultures’.

Mr Farrell said Cumbria Police should ‘enact and enforce’ the same system regarding hair colour.

South Cumbria hate crime manager DS Mike Wallace said there were no plans to amend the force’s policy, but it was reviewed every 12 months and other potential categories were being considered.

He said: ‘We take a strong stance on any form of bullying. Just because something is not categorised as a hate crime we would still expect the same quality of investigation.

‘If someone is being bullied because of their appearance I would want it investigated properly and I would urge them to contact us. It would be classed as an aggravating feature in a case.’


Bullying is described by the UK government as behaviour that is ‘intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally’.

It can include physical assaults, teasing, making threats, name-calling or cyberbullying, which is bullying via mobile phone or online.

Anybody suffering at the hands or a bully, or bullies, should immediately tell a parent, teacher or someone they trust.

The police can also be contacted on non-emergency number 101, or 999 in an emergency, if the bullying involves a crime. 

There are also several anti-bullying charities that can help, including the Anti-Bullying Alliance, BeatBullying, Bullying UK, ChildLine, Kidscape and the NSPCC.

National co-ordinator for the Anti-bullying Alliance, Luke Roberts, said he believed such attacks should be dealt with in the same way as any other prejudice.

‘For people with ginger hair bullying seems to be acceptable – the norm. That’s what makes it totally inappropriate,’ he said.

Cumbria’s former public health chief, Professor John Ashton, now president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the issue was part of a wider agenda that needed to be addressed.

‘It is something that starts with bad manners and ends up with violence. Really as a society we need to start being nice to each other.’

People across the globe have tried to counter the ‘ginger’ stigma, with a Redhead Day in the Netherlands attracting thousands.

A similar event took place for the first time in Manchester this year.

‘Bullied to death for being ginger’: Father’s anguish after 15-year-old daughter’s body found in woodland | Mail Online.

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