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Mother of boy who died after cheese flicked at him says her 'world has ended'

The mother of a boy who died from an allergic reaction after pupils threw cheese at him said she felt "her world has ended" following a coroner's hearing into his death.

Asthmatic Karanbir Cheema, 13, who had multiple allergies including wheat, gluten, egg, milk and tree nuts, collapsed at his school in west London on June 28 2017.

Speaking after the conclusion of the coroner's inquest, his mother Rina was asked if she felt William Perkin High School had done enough to protect her son, to which the visibly emotional mother replied "not at all".

Appearing outside St Pancras Coroner's Court on Friday, Ms Cheema said: “I think it would help a lot of children out there, whatever happened to my son, if the schools, the institutions, hospital, paramedics, (were) to become aware how serious allergies are.

“My son was mature, he knew himself how fast to react. His words were at school: ‘Please help me or I’m going to die’. That says it all.”

Asked how she felt since his death, she replied: “Lonely. He was my best friend, my soulmate.”

In a statement delivered outside the coroners' court, Ms Cheema's solicitor, Helen Clifford, said: "She raised her son to be fully aware of his allergies and he knew how to look after himself, and the coroner made that clear today.

"We're very concerned about the role the school may have played in Karan's death, they owed him a duty of care and we're considering whether they breached that duty and what the implications of that are."

  • Ms Cheema's solicitor, Helen Clifford, speaks outside court:

She added: "They knew about Karan's allergies when he went a joined that school, Rina made it perfectly clear. They did not act appropriately."

At this inquest today, coroner Mary Hassell said the case of Karan was "extremely rare", and said the boy who threw the cheese did not mean to seriously harm the youngster.

His inquest heard a pupil, who cannot be identified because of his age, threw a piece of 2cm by 2cm cheese from a friend's baguette at the end of morning break-time and flicked it at Karan, triggering the "unprecedented" reaction.

Karan immediately attended first aid as his condition quickly worsened, becoming breathless, and scratched vigorously at his skin.

The coroner said: “He pulled his shirt off, screamed and flung himself around the room in panic. He could not breathe.”

Karanbir Cheema was severely allergic to wheat, gluten, egg, milk and tree nuts. Credit: Rina Cheema

He later suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to hospital, but he suffered a serious brain injury due to a lack of oxygen and died almost two weeks later.

Recording a narrative verdict at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Friday, Ms Hassell said: “I think this was a thoughtless act – and I mean that in exactly that sense.

“He (the boy) was simply not thinking.

“This was a childish and thoughtless act but was not calculated to cause serious harm.”

But the coroner said there was a “missed opportunity” at the school where Karan studied to apprise pupils of the severity of his “grave allergies”.

Additional factors also contributed to his death, such as the EpiPen used to treat Karan was nearly a year out of date.

Ms Hassell said there was a “national lack of understanding” around the correct use of an EpiPen, but said it was not possible to determine whether having adrenline that was in date would have changed the outcome.

The incident took place at the William Perkin High School in west London. Credit: Google Maps

The coroner said she would prepare a report intended to prevent future deaths, sent to Karan’s school, emergency services, Government departments and experts, highlighting her concerns about Karan’s care in the run-up to his death.

Dame Alice Hudson, executive headteacher of the Twyford Trust, encompassing William Perkin school, said: “I believe staff did their utmost in the context of an extreme medical emergency. We are deeply sorry that we could not save Karan.

"We completely accept the coroner’s findings about the systems we had in place at the time, and regret that they were not enough.

"This case has highlighted how schools and parents are in need of much more specialist support, from the health authorities and others, to deal with children such as Karan who have complex and overlapping needs.

“We remember Karan with great affection as a lively and sensitive boy who was popular with his peers. Our hope is that his legacy will be a significantly increased awareness of the risks of anaphylaxis. The school community offers its prayers for Karan’s family at this very difficult time.”