NEWSWEEK: The string of deaths began with Dale Crole, 18. He hanged himself at an abandoned warehouse on Jan. 5, 2007. His friend David Dilling, 19, took police to the scene. Dilling died the same way a few weeks later, in mid-February. A week later the boys’ friend Thomas Davies, 20, hanged himself in a local park. After two months’ respite another local youth, 21-year-old Alan Price, was found dead of similar causes. In June his friend Leigh Jenkins, 22, hanged himself in another friend’s bedroom. Another of Crole’s friends, Liam Clarke, 20, died the same way in a park two days after Christmas. An acquaintance of his, Gareth Morgan, 27, hanged himself at home on the anniversary of Crole’s death.
The people of Bridgend are baffled and scared. Since the start of 2007, a total of 17 young people in and around the played-out South Wales coal town–most of them teenagers–have killed themselves by hanging. Few townspeople had any idea at first that the deaths were something out of the ordinary. The suicide rate in Wales is nearly twice that of the United Kingdom as a whole, and sinkholes of poverty like Bridgend tend to be even worse. In the town and its surrounding valleys, an area with a total population of some 130,000, the suicide rate among males 15-24 over the past decade has been 43 per 100,000, more than double the Welsh rate of 19 per 100,000. But Bridgend has never suffered so many suicides in such quick succession–particularly among so many who were friends or acquaintances. And no one knows why it’s happening now. MORE