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A 16-year-old girl took her own life after a private Instagram message was shared online, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.
Phoebe Connop, who lived in a suburb of Birmingham in England, had reportedly been flirting with a boy of Indian or Pakistani descent (referred to as “Asian” in the U.K.) when she took a joke photo of herself with darkened skin and a scarf wrapped around her head.
Connop sent the photo to her friends in a private Instagram message, along with a message saying that she would have to look like that in order to get approval from her love interest’s parents.
According to Detective Sergeant Katherine Tomkins, who spoke at an inquest on Friday, the offending photo was then shared by Connop’s friends.
“From speaking to her friends in the weeks following her death, we discovered that the image had circulated further than she wanted it to,” Tomkins said as quoted by the Telegraph.
Tomkins continued: “There had been some negative reaction and she confided in her friend, who did take the image down at her request, that she was scared of what the reaction might be from the Asian community in her area.”
Connop committed suicide on July 7 at home, allegedly because she feared being branded as racist after the photo leaked.
The Telegraph did not mention whether anyone would face charges in the case related to public distribution of a privately shared photo.
In a similar case in the U.S. in April, a Missouri teen killed herself after classmates posted “mean” Facebook comments about her.
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.