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Her son died after falling victim to sextortion. This N.B. mother wants to prevent it from happening to others

William Doiron took his own life after being a victim of a global sextortion scheme, where he was convinced into sending explicit sexual images and then blackmailed.

Son was a happy 16-year-old until he was targeted on Snapchat, says Stéphanie Thériault

William Doiron with his mother Stéphanie Thériault after a hockey game

WARNING: This story contains details about suicide and sexual extortion.

William Doiron was energetic, hard working and deeply involved in his small community on New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula. The teenager was a competitive hockey player, a referee and an aspiring carpenter.

His mother, Stéphanie Thériault, said William was a happy 16-year-old until he began exchanging messages on Snapchat with someone he thought was a young woman.

"Everyone knew him. He was a ball of energy," said Thériault in French.

On October 29, 2022, his family returned to their home in Saint-Léolin from his sister's hockey game and found William had taken his own life. They later learned he had been a victim of a global sextortion scheme, where he was convinced to send explicit sexual images of himself and then blackmailed.

'He was involved in everything'

Thériault said her son is missed by many in this small community near Caraquet, including his two siblings, his classmates, teammates, co-workers and people he helped.

"He was involved in everything. He looked out for the kids at his school. Even on the bus, there was a friend that was getting bullied and it was William that helped him," she said.

More than 500 people attended William's funeral and some had to stay outside because the church was full, Thériault said.

WATCH | 'These extorter groups are relentless':

How a tragic N.B. sextortion case is part of a global trend

7 hours ago

Duration 3:12

William Doiron took his own life in 2022 after facing threats that his explicit images would be shared online if he didn't pay a ransom. His mother is speaking out to try to bring awareness to the growing issue of sextortion.

William was hard-working and had an entrepreneurial spirit. At 14, he worked in a haskap-berry field and bought a snow blower to clear driveways. He also worked part-time at Maisons Supreme in Tracadie building mini-homes, with the hope of eventually becoming a professional carpenter.

"The days that they had snow days at school, he went to work with the neighbour. He worked the summer, every day. He never stopped," Thériault said.

Organized crime behind extortion

After William's death, Thériault said she was in complete shock and had no idea what had led him to take his own life.

She eventually learned he had been targeted by sextortion after several of his friends' parents alerted RCMP after receiving sexually explicit videos. The father of one of those children contacted Thériault to let her know what had happened.

She said like many teenagers, William always had his phone in his hand, texting friends and sending messages.

In reality, William was receiving explicit images of what he thought was another young woman. He was then asked to send images of himself, in return.

The person who communicated with William blackmailed him, she said, threatening to post photos on social media if he didn't send money. He didn't pay.

Three days later the photos were sent on Instagram. Shortly after, William killed himself.

"They convince you that your life is over if you don't pay," Thériault said.

His mother said he had a big support circle and many friends, but the "fear of being judged" was likely too much.

Thériault said RCMP took her son's electronic devices but without the password, it took 10 months to unlock his cellphone.

Police later told her the sextortion scheme was linked to a criminal network in West Africa and the case would be part of a larger investigation by Interpol.

Rise in sextortion

Police across Canada are warning of a rise in financially-motivated sextortion scams, particularly targeting young males.

New Brunswick RCMP have received 66 reports of online sextortion since 2023, with 43 just since January.

This week, two Moncton-area men facing sextortion charges were in court. The alleged victims, all in Quebec according to police, include nine men and three women, three of whom were defrauded and threatened into paying more than $5,000.

Cybertip.ca, Canada's national tip line for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, is seeing a 150 per cent increase in the past six months. It's getting about 10 reports — per day — of sextortion.

Catherine Tabak, the organization's senior manager, said criminals are using apps to target kids on social media like Snapchat and Instagram, as well as online games.

"These extorter groups are relentless. We are now seeing a lot of tactics being used towards threats to harm the child, threats to harm the family," she said.

Tabak said these groups are convincing children that they've placed themselves in situations where their life is over.

She said extortion schemes are largely being run by organized criminal groups operating in the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, but some arrests have happened in Canada.

Tabak said families should talk with their children about the risks of sextortion, help them identify warning signs online, and share resources for them to turn to if they need help. She said it's also important for kids to identify a safe adult to turn to, because youth often don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about this.

If someone is threatened, the RCMP recommends they immediately deactivate the account and block the person, save a copy of any images, take screenshots of messages and contact the police.

'Your life isn't over'

Thériault said William's death continues to have a deep impact on her family.

"It's ups and downs. William left a big void and we miss him. But we continue to keep going because we know that's what he would've wanted."

Thériault said she wants to speak out to raise awareness and prevent similar tragedies from online sextortion and cyberbullying. William's jersey hangs at the arena where he played hockey, along with the phone number for the Kids Help Phone.

She said it's important for victims of sextortion to know they are not alone.

"Even if it happens, you'll get past it. Your life isn't over."

If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.


Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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