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WATCH: How to spot the signs on online grooming

Breck Bednar, 14, was murdered after being groomed online – today, a film about his story is released to raise awareness

Breck Bednar, online grooming, Lewis Daynes, Lorin LaFave, online safety

“Essex police emergency.”

“OK…er I need police and a forensics team to my address, please “

“What do you mean? What’s happened?”

“My friend and I got into an altercation… and… I’m the only one who came out alive.”

“Are you telling me you’ve killed somebody?”

It reads like the script of a police drama. And the backstory sounds like one, too.

Fourteen-year-old Breck Bednar is gaming online with his friends. One day, a new boy joins them: "LewisDayn3s". He tells the boys he’s a millionaire living in New York, working for the government and with his own company. He befriends Breck, in particular, and later isolates him from his friends and family – telling him that his friends are talking about him, and to ignore what his parents say. Only Lewis knows what’s best for Breck.

One day, Lewis is sick and needs to hand over his company to Breck. He pays for Breck to get a taxi to his flat in Essex. There, Lewis stabs Breck to death.

That this is a real story, that it happened to a real boy, seems simply too horrific to be true.

But it is true. Breck Bednar was murdered by 18-year-old Lewis Daynes in 2014. This is his story,  And today, a four-minute film is being released to schools across the UK in order for them to share it with children and teachers.

Developed by the Breck Foundation – the charity founded by Breck’s mum, Lorin LaFave, – and commissioned by Leicestershire Police, in collaboration Northamptonshire Police, Essex Police and Surrey Police, the film aims to teach pupils to spot the signs of online grooming.

The danger of online grooming

“I felt really fortunate. Leicestershire Police are my heroes, really. Hopefully, just like with Kayleigh’s story [a similar film produced in 2016], I’m really hoping we can reach millions of young people, so they can recognise when they are being groomed online,” says LaFave.

“Boys can be groomed, too. Of course, it can happen to anyone. Breck was an everyday school boy, as we know. And he made a wrong decision. He had friends, he was clever. It can happen to anyone.”

Alongside the film are lesson plans developed by Leicestershire Police – within these the "Breck principles" are taught: Be aware, Report it, Educate, Communicate and Keep Safe. The foundation already offers talks to schools about the dangers of online grooming and has a thriving youth ambassador programme – police cadets from across the country talk to thousands of pupils, encouraging them to speak up if they think it might be happening to them. The aim is simple: educate as many young people as possible. Save as many lives as possible.

“In Breck’s school, in all the schools in our area, they were learning about e-safety, but they weren’t learning about grooming and exploitation; they weren’t learning about paeodophiles and predators. It was kind of the basic rules you learn when you’re teeny that just aren’t good enough when you’re interacting with strangers online,” says LaFave.

She hopes that the plans and film will support teachers and parents, too – and help them to understand what might be happening to their pupils or children.

“You know, when I went to my school and said, 'Breck’s being groomed,' one week I said, 'I don’t know if it’s something sexual,' the next week I think it might be radicalisation – 'He’s turning them against religion, governments and people who have different opinions'. One week I said, 'He’s being groomed because he’s being taught to hack, being taught to do some illegal activity.' I think people thought I was crazy. The fact is those signs of grooming were there. I could see them,” says LaFave.

For information, please visit The Breck Foundation website.

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