A MAN who blackmailed a Co. Tyrone teenager who later took his own life has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Iulian Enache, 31, tricked Ronan Hughes into sharing intimate images of himself online.
The Romanian national then sent the pictures to the 17-year-old’s friends after the teenager failed to pay a ransom.
Ronan went on to take his own life in June 2015 just hours after the images were shared online.
The schoolboy, who lived in Coalisland, was a promising pupil at St Joseph's Grammar in Donaghmore and was a talented GAA player.
Enache appeared in a court in Timisoara, Romania on charges of blackmail and producing and distributing indecent images of a child.
He pleaded guilty and was jailed for four years. He will be released in October 2019 to take into account the time he has already served.
His conviction was the result of a complex joint investigation between Romanian Police, the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI), Europol and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Britain.
James Mullen, a detective chief inspector with the PSNI, said that Enache’s sentence would do little to heal the emotional wounds suffered by Ronan’s family.
DCI Mullen said: "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."
The PSNI also appealed to parents and guardians to protect their children from online criminality, and that anyone who is being targeted should seek their help.
“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,” DCI Mullen said.
"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."
The PSNI says anyone who believes they have been compromised online in any way should call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.