Online bullies at St Andrews University ‘made acid attack threat’

Students at St Andrews, where indirect threats were made against two female students in an online chatroom. Photograph: Jane Barlow
Students at St Andrews, where indirect threats were made against two female students in an online chatroom. Photograph: Jane Barlow
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One student has been suspended for a year and another six disciplined at a prestigious Scots university after making a series of vicious threats to fellow undergraduates in a bid to “ruin their lives”.

The online bullies, all students at the University of St Andrews – where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both graduated in 2005 – are said to have made “indirect” threats to a couple of third year female students through a Facebook group chat during the last academic year.

The conversations, which did not involve their victims directly, saw one member of the group suggest throwing battery acid in the victims’ faces in what he described as “Indian rejected marriage style”, while others discussed potential “murder” and “elaborate revenge”, according to screen grabs seen by Scotland on Sunday.

The group conversation, which took place in the early part of this year, also suggested putting hair removal cream in a potential victim’s shampoo – after gaining access to their flat with a key which one of the students still held after sharing accommodation with them some time before – and “crumbling weight gain bars” into their victims’ food in a bid to make them unknowingly put on weight.

The victims described to student newspaper The Saint how they felt “scared and violated” and were unable to go out of their apartments alone after they became aware of the threats.

The conversations were initially reported to Police Scotland for investigation, but the incident was ultimately dealt with by the university, regularly rated among the top academic institutions in the UK.

The suspended male student will be banned from classes for a year, returning in September 2018, while the others have been forced to write letters of apology to their victims and have taken part in an anti-bullying course run by the university.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police in St Andrews received a complaint of threats being made indirectly via a private online chat room to two female students in March 2017.

“Inquiries were carried out and no crime was found to have been committed – however the matter was referred to the university for consideration of any action it may find it appropriate to take.”

A spokesman for the University of St Andrews said: “We cannot comment on individual cases, but all students are fully aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them.”

“The university has a zero tolerance policy on bullying in any shape or form and has rigorous procedures in place to deal with any complaints.

He added: “Any cases of reported abuse are followed up and a small number of students have been disciplined at the highest levels for such matters in the last five years.”

It is understood that both complainants were offered temporary accommodation by the university as they stated they did not feel safe in their current residency, but declined the offer.

The university’s student conduct guidelines state: “Penalties are determined on an individual basis and in the most serious cases, students may have their residence contracts reviewed, or may be expelled from the university.”