Archie Battersbee's death was 'prank which went wrong', coroner concludes at inquest

  • Archie's mother Hollie Dance spoke outside court after the inquest concluded

A coroner presiding over the inquest into Archie Battersbee's death has concluded the 12-year-old died accidentally in a "prank or experiment" which went wrong.

The youngster from Southend died on 6 August, four months after he suffered a brain injury at home when he was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck.

His family fought a lengthy legal battle in an attempted to keep his life support on, disputing doctors' assessments that he was "brain-stem dead".

On Wednesday a two-day inquest in Essex concluded, with senior coroner Lincoln Brookes recording a conclusion of accidental death.

Questions had been raised about messages which reflected the youngster's "very low mood" in the days before he was injured, the possibility that he was taking part in an online challenge, and that he was being bullied at school.

Mr Brookes said: “It seems to me while there were periods of low mood, in the days preceding, I haven’t received any evidence showing that.

"He had plans for later that day and big plans coming up for his first MMA [mixed martial arts] fight.

"I’ll make it plain now: it is my view it is an accident.

“This was an accident that went wrong, either a prank to shock his mum as she came out of the bedroom to find him doing something shocking or reckless, or just experimenting to see what it was like to do this,” Mr Brookes said.

“It probably went wrong very quickly and very badly.”

Thomas Summers visiting his younger brother Archie as he was being treated in hospital. Credit: Family photo

Mr Brookes said that he was satisfied that Archie “put his head in a noose or put a cord round his neck”.

“I think he did so without necessarily a good reason, 12-year-old boys don’t always have reasons,” Mr Brookes said.

“I think it may just be a case of curiosity – what does it feel like?”

He said that “something very similar happened the night before”, when Archie’s sister saw him putting a cord round his head to try to pull a door closed.

Mr Brookes said he had considered a conclusion of suicide but ruled this out, adding: “It seems to me that while there were periods of low mood and very low mood during the previous 12 months , in the days preceding his death I haven’t received any evidence of that.”

“He was full of energy, he was very physical, he was at times very bored,” said Mr Brookes.

“He liked to shock those around him, perhaps even more so those he cared about. He liked to trick, he liked sometimes to carry out acts, or some might describe them as stunts, that would alarm people.”

Archie Battersbee with his mother Hollie Dance Credit: Family photo

He recorded Archie’s medical cause of death as catastrophic hypoxic ischemic brain injury, secondary to strangulation.

Det Sgt Tiffany Gore said that Archie had written in Whatsapp messages about being depressed and thoughts of self-harm.

In one, the youngster wrote: “That’s why I’m so depressed all the time and I don’t cut my wrists but I have tried and thought about killing myself.”

She earlier told the hearing that officers found a voice note dated 3 April on Archie’s phone, in which a young male voice, said: “Oi Archie, do you know why you’re angry? Because your mum wanted you to be an abortion.”

Hollie Dance speaks to reporters outside the inquest into her son Archie Battersbee's death. Credit: PA

The court had earlier heard from Archie's mother Hollie Dance, who said she believed her son's death was accidental, and his father Paul Battersbee, who said he "couldn't accept" that his son would have intended to take his own life.

Archie's brother and sister also told the coroner that they had seen no evidence of his low mood in the days before he suffered his fatal injury.

Speaking to reporters after the inquest, Ms Dance said it was the "right outcome", but said she had had "some of the answers, but not all".

She added: "It's time to allow us as a family to grieve without the online abuse."

Ms Dance said she was now working closely with two families who had lost their children in "similar situations".

"The whole idea was to raise awareness for other parents and I do think we’ve done that. Despite the fact we’ve been trolled so heavily it kind of makes it worth it because I do feel we have saved children's lives."

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