Northern Ireland

Youths 'want education' after Portadown girl's death

Caitlin White Image copyright Social media
Image caption The 15-year-old girl has been named locally as Caitlin White

Teenagers have said they want to be educated about drugs and alcohol after the death of a 15-year-old girl in Portadown, according to a youth worker.

The girl has been named locally as Caitlin White.

Police have said a possible link to drugs is one line of inquiry into her death.

The Craigavon Senior High School pupil was reported unconscious in woodland near Portadown's Corcrain housing estate on Saturday evening.

She was taken to hospital in Craigavon but died a short time later.

The exact cause of her death is not yet known.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out to determine what happened.

Image caption Young people left floral tributes in the woodland where the teenager collapsed

Police carried out a search for evidence on Sunday afternoon as friends and classmates laid flowers near the scene.

The school has confirmed GCSE examinations would take place as scheduled on Monday despite the death.

'Kids don't know the problems'

Jordan Russell, who works with young people in the Corcrain area, said: "After this incident happened, kids have approached me to say: 'We want a drugs and alcohol awareness course, we want to be educated, we need to know the difference between right and wrong.'

"If we had a facility where we could take these young people on a Friday night, on a Saturday night, to a facility where we could educate them... they have absolutely nothing.

"They seriously need educated - kids don't know the problems and everything that goes on.

"Nobody believes in these kids, somebody needs to start making a difference."

Image caption Campbell Best spoke to the girl and her friends just 24 hours before she died

A local youth worker who has been trying to tackle the problem of drug taking in the area said he spoke to Caitlin just 24 hours before she died.

Campbell Best was at a pop-up drop-in centre in the Corcrain area on Friday.

"She was with a group of three or four other young friends and we chatted away," he said.

"We made them aware we had some drinks, snack bars and crisps - things like that - over in the centre and they came over and we had a great chat."

He added: "It's very tragic and it's impacted on the staff. I've talked to them since and they're very much taken aback by what happened within the 24-hour period, between chatting to the group up here and, unfortunately, a young woman losing her life."

'Nowhere else to go'

Some of her friends who spoke to the BBC said Caitlin was "popular, friendly and outgoing".

They said they go to the area because there was "nothing else to do". They said they drink alcohol and some said they take drugs but that what happened at the weekend would make them think twice.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The teenager died in hospital after being taken unconscious from woodland in Portadown

One regular dog walker told the BBC young people regularly gathered in the area.

"It's buzzing with young ones," she said. "They are here at weekends and holidays.

"There's nothing else for them to do and nowhere to go. They've been moved on from different places, so they've started coming here.

"I saw a young man at the weekend sitting in the trees with his head down and I went over and spoke to him. He was out of it, staggering about when he got up. It was terrible."

The death was a tragic loss to both the girl's family and the Craigavon Senior High School community, said associate principal Hilary Woods.

The school has said it would endeavour to keep the environment as normal as possible for the sake of the pupils.

A critical incident team from the Education Authority will be available to give pupils the opportunity to talk through their thoughts and feelings.