A teenager hanged himself in his bedroom after he was bullied at school because of his learning difficulties, his devastated friends claimed today.
Friends said tragic Joshua Maddox, 15, killed himself after months of cruel taunts from fellow pupils about his condition which had left him struggling at school.
His distraught family dialled 999 after finding the teens lifeless body at their home in Walsall, West Mids., last Thursday morning.
Ambulance teams and police rushed to the house, in Persehouse Street, but schoolboy Josh was tragically pronounced dead at the scene.
Scores took to social networking sites to slam bullies who had targeted the “lovely” and “cheeky” schoolboy and accused them of driving him to his death.
Joshua was bullied at school because of his autism and teased for having a new girlfriend, his heartbroken mother said.
Michelle Maddox, 34, said that tragic Josh had been seeing his new girlfriend in the two months leading up to his death, but was ridiculed by classmates because she was younger than him.
His 14-year-old sister Leighlauren discovered Josh’s body after she went in to his bedroom to try and wake him for school on January 31.
Fighting back tears Michelle said: “We all went to bed the night before, he never gave any indication or let on that anything was wrong.
“That day he’d been playing with his brothers and they’d been laughing and joking together.
“The only thing we do know is he deleted stuff off his phone just before he died, the police are looking through it for any clues.
“He was very good at putting up a front, you wouldn’t be able to find out what was wrong with him.
“Even if you asked he’d say he was fine.”
Michelle said that other children at Josh’s school had branded him a ‘paedo’ due to the two year age gap between him and his girlfriend.
She said: “They got together just before Christmas.
“We only knew that he had been bullied about his girlfriend because his sister was in the art room when it happened, otherwise we probably never would have known.
“They were calling him a ‘paedo’ because she was two years younger and making fun of the fact that she had glasses.
“We were told about it the week before he left us but he said he wanted to deal with it himself and didn’t want me to get involved.
“The problem when children are bullied is that they feel like if they tell on people they’ll just get it back ten times worse.”
Michelle added that Joshua – who died just a month before his 16th birthday – had suffered taunts about his mental health since he was very young.
She said: “I want young people to see what effect bullying can have and educate them better about how to deal with children who have mental health issues.
“I think bullies need a stronger punishment, I feel deep down that nothing will be done about this and I worry it could happen to another family.
“He was my baby, I can’t replace him, he’s never coming back and I want people to be aware of what bullying can do to people.”
Stepdad Philip Downes, 32, said that Josh behaved as though he was much younger due to his ADHD and autism.
He said: “I think children need to be more aware of the symptoms of ADHD and other mental health problems.
“Josh showed no physical difference to the other children his age, but in his head it was a different story.
“His body was 15 but his mind was more like a twelve-year-old.
“His body had gone through puberty but his brain hadn’t, he just didn’t fit in any more with the other children so they picked on him.”
Friends of the Year 10 pupil known as ‘Josh’, said he had been picked on because of his ADHD.
Pal Jessica Mary wrote: “R.I.p gorgeous! We was always so close.
“I hope the bullies die inside, I hope they suffer I don’t get how they can bully you because you have adhd, its so sick you was lovely lad you was so nice sleep tight lovely x (sic)”
Rainey Lawley added: “What happend to him its so sad how bullies think its just a laugh when that poor lad took his own life.”
A number of mates also left touching tributes to Josh, who they described as a talented artist, footballer and keen video-gamer, on a Facebook tribute site.
Kirsty Price wrote: “Josh u was truely (sic) amazing and just a total ace person I will never forget u the way u flipped ur hair the way u alway had a smile on ur face we have lost a true angel.
“I will never forget the laugh we have had when we had piggy back race down all the streets.
“u was so amazing at drawing and I will never forget the time I popped ur nose and u still had a smile on ur face rip josh I will never forgett u xxxxxx”
Parents of other children claimed that their kids had also been bullied at St Thomas More Catholic School, Willenhall, West Mids., which has 1,475 pupils.
Debbie Shinton said: “My heart go’s (sic) out to you and your family, my son is in year 9 at thomas more and been bullied for the first year and half , have not stopped thinking about josh made me cry, may he find peace and be around them who love him to help them though this nightmare godbless you all. X”
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman confirmed that a rapid response vehicle, and an ambulance were despatched to Josh’s home in Pershouse Street, Walsall, West Mids last Thursday (January 31).
She said: “We were called to a medical incident, one patient was confirmed dead at the scene.
“No-one was taken to hospital.”
A West Midlands Police spokesman confirmed officers were called to a medical emergency at around 7am on Thursday 31 January.
Detective Inspector John Smith said: “We are completing routine enquiries on behalf of the coroner; the death is not being treated as suspicious.”
A school statement said: “Our deepest sympathies go to the family and friends of Joshua Maddox who tragically passed away on 30 January 2013.
“Joshua was a Year 10 pupil. He was a kind and friendly boy well-liked by friends and teachers.
“School counselling staff have been made available to support staff and pupils over the coming days and weeks as they come to terms with this sudden and extremely sad news.
“Walsall Council and Walsall Children’s Services – Serco have also offered their sympathy to Joshua’s family, friends and to our school. They are in regular contact with us and we will continue to work together to support the family and school community.
“It would be appreciated if the family’s and school’s privacy could be respected at this difficult time.”