Archie Battersbee’s mother believes his death was an accident, inquest hears
Archie Battersbee’s mother believes her son died after accidentally falling from the banister at their home, causing a neck injury, an inquest has heard.
The 12-year-old’s life support was withdrawn on August 6 2022 after his parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, failed in bids to overturn a High Court ruling that doctors could lawfully do so.
Judges were told Ms Dance found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head at home in Southend, Essex, on April 7 last year.
On the first day of an inquest into his death in Chelmsford on Tuesday, a tearful Ms Dance told of finding her son unresponsive by their staircase before running outside and screaming for help.
She said: “I was crying hysterically, I was saying ‘please don’t leave mummy, I love you little man’.
“I repeated that over and over, I just didn’t want him to leave me.”
Joseph Norton, in a written statement read to the court, said that his mother lives next to Ms Dance and was in the garden when he heard shouting.
He said: “I heard a scream, a startling type of scream that alarmed me.
“I stopped and stood still to listen. I knew it was a serious scream, I thought someone could have been stabbed nearby.“
Mr Norton, who carried out CPR on Archie before ambulance crews arrived, said the boy looked “pale” and his lips were turning bluer.
Asked by Essex’s senior coroner Lincoln Brookes how she thinks her son died, Ms Dance replied: “I think he climbed on the banister and probably fell, causing serious injury to his neck, resulting in unconsciousness.”
She said her belief is that Archie’s death was an “accident”.
Paramedic crews were called to the scene following reports Archie was in cardiac arrest.
A paramedic told the court: “When I arrived there was a child on the floor on his back who had gone into cardiac arrest.
“There was no abnormal marks to his neck and nothing obvious to show massive trauma.
“He was pale in colour and I started basic life support and chest compressions.
“There were no signs of head injury.”
Mr Brookes spoke of concerns raised by Ms Dance about how her son was carried into the ambulance, and that he had not been given a neck brace.
Ms Dance had said: “Carried out by his ankles, it was quite upsetting, like cattle, not my little boy.”
The paramedic replied she did not think a neck brace was “applicable”, adding: “When we moved him from the property we ensured everyone was still supporting him.”
Ms Dance also set out that Archie was the “apple of my eye”, “well-loved” and “protected”.
She said Archie was affected by the separation of herself and his father, that he endured bullying at school and was taken out of mainstream education.
Archie was a lover of gymnastics and mixed martial arts (MMA) with his first fight, which he was “looking forward to”, scheduled for weeks after his death, the inquest heard.
Ms Dance added that Archie “thought he was the next Spider-Man” and would often climb on things.
Family members said “he wasn’t down, just a bit bored” in the weeks before he died, Ms Dance told the hearing.
The coroner asked Ms Dance if she was aware Archie had been expressing thoughts of self-harm and suicide, to which she replied: “no”.
Mr Brookes went on: “The police found he had shared some thoughts with others online or in a WhatsApp group. How were you when you read that?”
Ms Dance said: “Heartbroken, very surprised… if there were any marks on his body I would have seen them.”
Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, thought he was brain-stem dead and said continued life-support treatment was not in his best interests.
Ms Dance has previously said he may have been taking part in an online challenge, and he suffered brain damage.
On Tuesday, she told the inquest: “I still don’t know if Archie was trying the blackout challenge on April 7 or before, I still don’t know what he was watching on TikTok.”
She added: “He hated bullying and loud shouting. I can see that he might possibly be influenced, even though he knew right from wrong, if that’s what peers and social media were telling him to do so. I fear that’s what was prompted.”
Mr Brookes said at a preliminary inquest hearing in November last year he had seen no evidence that Archie was taking part in any online blackout challenge but had been told that police found messages on the youngster’s phone reflecting “very low mood”.
At the outset of the hearing, Mr Brookes offered his “deep condolences”.
He said the topics the inquest will cover include Archie’s medical cause of death and his “state of mind and his intentions on April 7 2022”.
The inquest continues.