Romanian man Iulian Enache (31) pleaded guilty last week in a court in Timisoara, Romania to blackmailing Coalisland teenager Ronan Hughes and producing/distributing indecent images of a child.
He was sentenced to four years in prison, however, under Romanian law he will serve three years, meaning he will be released with time served on 29 October, 2019.
Ronan Hughes (17) died in June 2015 after being blackmailed by Enache.
Detective Chief Inspector James Mullen, from PSNI’s Criminal Investigation Branch, said, “This has been a tragic case and, first and foremost, in our minds is the family of Ronan Hughes who have lost a son and a brother. We must never forget that.
“I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Hughes family for the dignity they have shown since their devastating loss, and for their co-operation and patience with our investigation.
“This has been a complex and protracted investigation over the course of two years, involving a huge effort between PSNI officers who travelled to Romania working closely with our colleagues there, and prosecuting officers in the jurisdiction.
“I want to pay special thanks to Romanian Police for their work in this investigation, and to Europol and the National Crime Agency for their help. Undoubtedly, the work and partnership between the PSNI, our Romanian police colleagues and each of the agencies is what led to the conviction and prison sentence for Iulian Enache.
“A four-year prison sentence is no compensation for the loss of Ronan Hughes – a young man who had his whole life ahead of him – however, there can be no doubt that the sentence means others will be spared the pain and loss experienced by the Hughes family at the hands of Enache.
“We understand the level of media interest in this development, however, we are in close contact with the Hughes family and they have asked us to remind all media that they do not wish to be contacted at this time, and would ask the media to respect their wishes.”
“I also want to take this opportunity to appeal to parents and guardians to do all they can to keep their children safe from the hands of online criminals. We are all aware of the part social media plays in today’s society, therefore, it is incumbent on everyone to do what they can to stop offenders like Enache.
“I would also urge anyone who has experienced anything of a similar nature, or has received any inappropriate images or links, to contact Police or tell a trusted adult. You will not get into trouble. This tragic case highlights that police will do all they can to pursue these online criminals who are preying on our communities.
“We all deserve to be able to use the internet to learn, explore and connect with each other, but all of us need to be aware of the risks involved in doing so, especially on social media. If you feel you have been compromised online in anyway, please report it to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
General advice to everyone:
1. Don’t accept friend requests with someone you don’t know – everyone online may not be who they say they are.
2. Set privacy settings on all devices so that only people you know can view your account.
3. Don’t post anything online that you are not happy to be shared, particularly nude or nearly nude images or videos. It may seem like a bit of fun with friends at the time but there is always a chance those images could be shared or get into the wrong hands and could lead to harmful situations such as stalking, abuse or blackmail.
4. If someone has made you feel uncomfortable or you have had disturbing interaction online, tell police or a trusted adult. You can ring the police on 101 or for help and advice ring Childline on 0800 1111 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.
5. The internet can be a great place but it is important to remember there are people out there who may wish to abuse, exploit, intimidate or bully you online – if this happens to you, tell someone immediately.
6. Remember that if things do go wrong online, there are people who can help.
7. If you receive any inappropriate images or links, it is important that you do not forward it to anyone else. Contact police or tell a trusted adult immediately. By doing this you could help prevent further such incidents.
General advice to parents:
1. The most important thing is to have conversations with your children – talk to them about the benefits and dangers of the internet so that you can empower them to use the internet safely.
2. Cultivate an interest in their online activities – their favourite websites, online games and interests and keep an eye on what they are doing online.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask your children who they are talking to online and what they are talking about and remind them how important it is to tell a trusted adult if something happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried because there are people who can help.
4. Become a net-savvy parent – the best safeguard against online dangers is being informed. Jump in and learn the basics of the Internet – read articles, take a class, and talk to other parents. You don’t have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world.
5. Go to www.getsafeonline.org for lots of useful advice and information on how to stay safe online.”