'Bullies drove our little lifesaver to kill herself'

by CHRIS BROOKE, Daily Mail

Elaine Swift's act of selflessness saved her sister's life ... but was ultimately to cost her her own.

When she gave bone marrow to treat the leukaemia crippling the younger girl, Elaine was feted for her bravery.

But publicity given to the story evoked different emotions in some of her schoolmates.

She became the target of a four-year bullying ordeal which drove her to take an overdose of pills.

Doctors spent two weeks trying to save her but yesterday the 15-year-old died in hospital with her heartbroken parents at her bedside.

Ben and Fiona Swift blame the education system for failing their daughter and other bullying victims. Speaking shortly before Elaine died at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Mr Swift said: 'She is fun-loving and always wants to do things for others.

'She was a hero for what she did for her sister. It was an amazing thing to do. But her schoolmates made her a target for that.

'She's a beautiful girl and doesn't deserve this. The last words she uttered were "Daddy, I

love you. I'm sorry". To see her the way she is now is awful.'

Elaine agreed to the transplant in 1997 when tests showed that, despite odds of 400 to 1, her bone marrow matched that of her sister Christine, who was then six.

The story received widespread publicity in local newspapers, television and radio.

But instead of joining the praise, teenagers at Brierton School, in Hartlepool, Teesside, used it as an excuse to pick on Elaine.

Last summer she was moved to Dyke House School to escape the bullies. But a group of teenage girls continued to bully her.

Elaine's parents claim she was the victim of at least 30 incidents, including name- calling, being followed and having a lit match thrown in her hair.

Mr Swift, 45, of Lancaster Road, Hartlepool, said Elaine had written about committing suicide in a notebook he discovered at the family home.

Two weeks ago the teenager was taken to hospital after telling a teacher she had swallowed 15 painkillers. Tests showed she had taken at least 100 paracetamol tablets during the previous 14 days in an apparent attempt to

commit suicide.

Her condition worsened in hospital and she lost consciousness. She was transferred from Hartlepool to the specialist Freeman Hospital where she underwent an emergency liver transplant. She had also suffered blood poisoning and was put on life support.

Mr Swift, a primary school governor who does not work because of ill health, and his wife Fiona, 38, said schools had a 'poor bullying policy'.

'People must open their eyes to this. We have to protect our children. We think this was a cry for help. She thought no one was taking notice of her bullying claims.

'The education system has failed my daughter. But this is not just happening in Hartlepool. It's all over the country.

'We send our children to school assuming they are safe, but that's obviously not the case.'

Bill Jordon, head teacher of Dyke House School, said: 'Our thoughts at this moment are with Elaine and her family.

'The school takes bullying very seriously and we have stringent policies in place.

'We have been liaising with her parents over a period of time and I am confident that the school has acted properly and taken all the appropriate steps.'

Stuart Priestley, head at Brierton School, said: 'We have a rigorous anti-bullying policy and every reported incident is fully investigated. We also have a number of staff who specialise in dealing-with bullying and we actively encourage children to report cases themselves or through a friend.'

Mr and Mrs Swift have contacted police in the hope their daughter's bullies can be prosecuted. A Cleveland Police spokesman said: 'We can confirm an allegation of bullying has been reported to police.'

Elaine's death comes a week after a 13-year-old girl committed suicide after being bullied for being tall.

Morgan Musson, who was 6ft, was allegedly tormented by pupils at Ellis Guilford Comprehensive in Basford, Nottingham.

She swallowed 40 painkillers and went to bed. Her mother found her dead the next day.

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