Archie Battersbee: Mum Hollie Dance reveals final bedside conversation before life support withdrawn

  • Hollie Dance told ITV News Anglia's Charlie Frost what she said to her son on the day he died

The mother of Archie Battersbee has revealed how she apologised to her son on the morning that his life support was withdrawn, telling him that she had fought to the end and would "love him forever".

Twelve-year-old Archie died on 6 August after a lengthy legal battle, with the final court defeat coming late the previous night, giving his family just hours to compose themselves and say their goodbyes.

His mother Hollie Dance told ITV News Anglia how she sat at his bedside to bid farewell to Archie, who had been in a four-month coma.

"My friend videoed it for me... that morning, having the conversation with Archie. Telling him that I'm so proud of him and I'm so proud to be his mum. He was the best little boy ever," she said.

"I was stroking his face and stroking his hair... I was telling him how much I loved him, and I can't wait to be with him again. I was telling him how special he was... That I'm going to love him forever, and I'm so sorry that it's come to this. And I tried everything I can."

Archie had spent four months in the Royal London Hospital in a coma. Credit: Family photo

Doctors believed that Archie was brain-stem dead and had no realistic prospect of recovery, after he suffered a catastrophic brain injury after being found unconscious at home on 7 April. His mother believes he was taking part in an online challenge.

The health trust of the Royal London Hospital, where Archie was being treated, asked the High Court to rule on his future, and a judge decided that withdrawing his life support was in his best interests. Following repeated appeals to different courts over more than a fortnight, the decision was upheld.

In her first in-depth interview since Archie's life support was switched off, Ms Dance also explains why she had no regrets about fighting the court battle to the end, her disdain for the "pathetic" online trolls who have targeted her, the cost to her own mental health and her determination that some good should come of Archie's death.

She has since brought Archie's body back to a mortuary in Southend, where she visits him daily as she processes the emotions of the final days of his life.

"It was very stressful, very anxious, very nailbiting," she said. "There were so many mixtures of emotions, that you can't process them. You don't know if you're coming or going."

Archie and his mum had always been close, she said. Credit: Family photo

Being closer to home and the support from the community and friends has brought comfort to the family, including a vigil on Sunday attended by many of Archie's friends.

But Ms Dance is also coming to terms with the impact the four-month ordeal has had on her.

"I'm starting therapy on Saturday, which is a little earlier than planned. I've had a few flashbacks," she said. "I'm going to deal with things how I feel, and my way is to keep busy."

She added: "If I allow too much negativity to set in I will go downhill very fast. Archie was a very happy little boy and he didn't like negativity.

"I had 12 of the best years with Archie ever, and there's nobody or nothing that can ever take that away. Every day of Archie's life I told him I loved him, from the second he was born."

Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee are now determined to push for change in how such cases are handled. Credit: PA

Her focus now - and part of Archie's legacy, she hopes - will be in encouraging parents to have discussions with their children about social media, and the dangers of viral challenges, in the hope of avoiding further tragedies.

She wants him to be remembered "for making change", and believes his death has already had an effect.

"Other children are not copying challenges, so he saved lives there," said Ms Dance. "Hundreds of parents have had that conversation now."

Amid calls for a public inquiry into Archie's death, she hopes that new ways of mediating such cases can be found, avoiding the traumatic court battles she and her family endured.

A similar idea has also been backed by palliative care professor Baroness Finlay, who suggested that trusted, independent mediators could have a role to play.

  • Hollie Dance also hit out at the "pathetic" trolls who have criticised her online

But Ms Dance maintains that she and Archie's father Paul Battersbee, from whom she is separated, were justified in fighting the hospital through the courts - arguing that it won her more time with her son - and continues to believe that the doctors treating Archie were wrong.

The family's refusal to give up has made them - and Ms Dance in particular - a target for criticism online, which at times has veered into abuse.

"It's trolling - it's online bullying. These are pathetic people that hide behind fake profiles," she said. "They haven't got the courage to [use] a real profile.

"There was a lot of 'If that was me I wouldn't be doing interviews, I wouldn't be up in court'.

"But being up in court got me another 16 or 17 weeks of my child's life. I would not have had those extra months with Arch."

During those months, Archie's name and face became known to millions, though the memories of who he was before his injury belong only to his close friends and his family.

"He'd always been the perfect child. I just loved him. He was perfect to me," said his mother.

"He was just my Arch."