A heartbroken mum whose son was choked to death over a Facebook joke is warning about the dangers of social media.

Helen Godden is haunted by the knowledge that a mouse click effectively ended her beloved son Carl Gregory’s life.

The 20-year-old had poked fun at his ex-girlfriend by posting a picture of a woman leapfrogging giant penis statues. He added the caption: “How most girls get over exs”.

The insult led to murder. Carl was throttled in a shopping centre car park, his killer then stamped on his head “as if he was stepping on a fly.”

Now Helen, 46, is determined no other family should have to suffer the pain she is going through.

She said: “I’m sure no one thought that day would end with murder but people see something on Facebook, get riled up and feel big and strong when they’re alone in front of a computer.

“They make plans and things quickly get out of control.”

Helen said that although ­social media can bring people together it also has a dangerous side as jokes can cause offence.

She said: “Words online can lead to very real actions with consequences. Carl’s murder was so senseless and we have to live forever with the pain. People say he’s in a better place now but he’s not. A better place is here – with us.”

In March last year John Dickson, 27, was found guilty of murdering Carl in a car park near Broadstairs, Kent.

Dickson, of nearby Cliftonville, was jailed for life and told he would have to serve at least 18 years.

Maidstone Crown Court heard how the killer went to the car park with Christopher Pollard who had been told by Carl’s ex Chloe Lemare, now 22, that he had called her “a slag”.

Pollard, of Meopham, Kent, who was jointly accused of murder, was cleared of both murder and manslaughter.

During sentencing Judge Adele Williams echoed Mrs Godden’s warning about social media. She said: “This case well illustrates some of the dangers of young people on social media. It shows how an argument can escalate and be blown out of all proportion because of the speed of the communications.”

Recalling the dreadful night of her son’s death in October 2016, Helen said: “Did Carl know, ‘this is it, I’m going to die’ as he lay alone on the cold ground of that car park struggling to breathe?

“My worst regret is I did not drive by that night to offer him a lift home. I was going to but I changed my mind, I thought it’d embarrass him in front of his friends.

“It’d have been too late to save him but he could have died in my arms instead of alone on the cold concrete.

“Every morning we wake up into the nightmare again knowing that our son was murdered and we have to try to get through the day.”

Helen, of Ramsgate, is a sales agent at an opticians. She said: “The worst time of day is walking to work. Every morning I’m thinking of what happened to Carl.

“He is never going to be away from my mind.”

Helen and Carl’s pals have had tattoos of turtles done in tribute to his love of the Ninja Turtles.

Helen has one swimming on her shoulder with the word “Duuude”, to reflect her boy’s chilled and laid-back nature.

Helen said: “I’d be lying if I said everyone is doing great and things have been wonderful. It’s hard, it’s very, very hard.

“I can look at the beautiful pictures of Carl but I can’t stare. It eats my heart. I can’t dust them. I hope one day I can.”

Helen, who also has another son Aidan, 16, and three daughters Megan, 20, Grace, 11, Ruby, 10, attended every day of the four-week trial.

She said: “I wanted them to see me, to know some justice is done.

“You imagine horrible people to look horrible – like the bogeyman who’s come in at night to steal your children. But then you see them in court and they’re just boys.” During the trial she saw Carl’s final moments over and over again on CCTV recordings.

She said: “John [Dickson] caught Carl in a headlock and dragged him to the ground but Carl got free.

“Then John grabbed him in a choke hold again and this time he did not let go. It takes at least 60 – 90 seconds to suffocate someone so he held him like that for more than a minute.

“He held him as he felt the life ­slipping out of him. He had his life in his hands and he let it go.

“After he walked away calmly before he turned, lifted his foot and stamped down on his head as he lay motionless on the ground.

“That broke me. Carl was no threat at that stage. But he just stepped on him like he was a fly.

“John had scratches on his face after the attack. I hope they were from Carl as he fought for his life in those final seconds and I hope they scar him forever.” Helen remembers the moment police knocked on her door that night to tell her Carl was dead. She said: “From that point on the world just ceased to exist.

“I spent a long time staring out the window wondering why everyone was still moving.”

Helen was so shocked she had ­trouble talking for a week.

She said: “We went to formally identify him three or four days after his body was found. It looked like he was asleep. He looked so perfect.

“He only had one bruise on his head where he fell. I told him ‘It’s ok, you can wake up now’ but I knew he wasn’t going to.” Carl, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at four and Asperger’s at seven, lacked social awareness. Helen believes his autism may have prompted him to post the Facebook picture.

Supermarket worker Carl and Chloe had lived with Helen and her family for six months during their one-year relationship.

Helen said: “It’s difficult maintaining a friendship with your ex and we warned him to be careful and not to get his heart broken again. But we had no idea it could end so catastrophically. I think he was hurt when he put that picture up on Facebook. And maybe he thought it would be payback.

“I saw the picture but I had no idea what it was in reference to. He was always putting stupid things online and I was always asking him to take them down.

“When Chloe saw it she was annoyed and upset, which I get. And Carl has to be responsible for his part.

“But how it can go so quickly from a picture on Facebook to murder is crazy. It just snowballed.”

Helen thinks no sentence British justice could deliver will ever be sufficient. Yet, astonishingly, the grieving mother often thinks about the impact her son’s murderer’s actions have had on his own family.

She said: “Eighteen years is a long time but even if it had been 25 years, I am still not going to have Carl at the end of it.

“He may be in jail for what he did but he is still living a life.

“If I think about John there is no emotion. I am neither angry, sad – he is in prison.

“I do feel for his family. People can blame backgrounds, a broken home or whatever, no one brings up a child to kill another child.

“I think: Christmas, even though I was sitting there and I haven’t got my son, she hasn’t got her son either.

“He’s alive she can see him, she is a lot better off than I am, she still hasn’t got him there Christmas morning.

“I don’t know them or what their feelings are. I’d like to think in some way they feel ­justice has been served but I do feel sad for them.”

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