E-Safety and child grooming; Kayleigh's story

E-Safety and child grooming; Kayleigh's story

Posted on Jan 20, 2017

E-Safety and child grooming; Kayleigh's story 


On 31 October 2015, 15-year-old Kayleigh Haywood began speaking to a man she had never met before online. He contacted her via Facebook and within 10 minutes the pair had swapped mobile phone numbers. Over the course of 13 days they exchanged 2,643 messages, mainly by text.


The dangers of speaking to people online

Luke Harlow was grooming Kayleigh Haywood. He told her all the things many teenage girls want to hear: that she was beautiful, how much he cared for her, and that she was special.

Kayleigh finally agreed to his requests to spend the night of Friday 13th November 2015 at his house. Kayleigh told her parents that she was going to stay at her friend’s house; this was the last time she was seen by her family.

In the early hours of Sunday 15th November, having been held against her will for 2 days by Luke Harlow and his next door neighbour Stephen Beadman, Kayleigh was raped and murdered.


Kayleigh’s Love Story

With the support of Kayleigh’s family, Leicestershire Police made a film about the last two weeks of her life.

Kayleigh’s Love Story was released online this month (January 2017). The film and trailer both contain cautions that if either were to be screened at a cinema, they would carry a 15 certificate.



Kayleigh’s Love Story is as a warning to young people (both boys and girls), about the dangers of speaking to people they don’t know online. The short film highlights just how quick and easy it can be for children to be groomed online without them or those around them knowing it is happening. Its purpose is to protect children now and in the future and to stop another family losing a child in this way.

The NSPCC said Kayleigh's death was "sad and tragic" and a "stark reminder about the dangers of social media as far as children are concerned".


How common is online grooming?

In December 2015, the NSPCC reported that online grooming cases had increased by almost 50%.

One in five 8-to-11-year-olds and seven in ten 12-to-15-year-olds have social media profiles.

Girls appear to be particularly prone to being contacted on social networks, online game environments, and other areas popular with children and young people. But boys could be less likely to report their experiences and seek help.


Signs of grooming

"There were no signs... no mood swings, nothing different about Kayleigh to make us aware that there were messages being sent or she was being groomed," - Mrs Haywood

As was the case with Kayleigh’s family, the signs of grooming aren't always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified. If a child is being groomed they may:

  • be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
  • have older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • go to unusual places to meet friends
  • have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can't or won't explain
  • have access to drugs and alcohol.

In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.



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