A 14-year-old boy who died at school had been put in a “chokehold” by bullies, a grieving family member has claimed.
The pupil, who has been named as Hamdan Aslam, died following an incident at St Kentigern’s Academy in Blackburn, West Lothian, on Tuesday.
While sources with knowledge of the investigation into the death said it appeared Hamdan had died in a “tragic accident”, distraught family members have questioned the claim.
On Thursday morning, officials at the family’s local mosque, in Bathgate, said relatives would not make any further comment due to the ongoing investigation.
“It’s a very difficult time for everyone in the community as a whole and the family,” said Asaad Tariq, a trustee at the mosque.
Several parents, some of whom said their children were witnesses, claimed that Hamdan died after voluntarily taking part in a game called “tap out”, in which they allow air supply to be restricted until they almost pass out.
He is said to have suffered a seizure, causing pupils to alert teachers who called 999.
However, Zain Mohammed, a relative, claimed the “gentle” boy “was being bullied for being different”.
He said a boy who had been bullying him “put him in a chokehold and wouldn’t let go” and that the incident was “being passed off as a game called tap out”.
“Hamdan was innocent and gentle and wouldn’t hurt a fly,” the 29-year-old told The Daily Record. “He was reserved and he didn’t speak very much.
“He was a good boy and so family-oriented. We can’t believe he is gone. It’s a devastating loss. We loved him very much.”
‘Could have been play-fighting’
The SNP Government has recently come under major scrutiny over a rising number of violent incidents in Scottish schools. The trend has been linked to policy of all but banning pupil exclusions under a supposedly “inclusive” policy.
Official sources insisted there was no evidence that the boy was taking part in a social media challenge or that the incident was linked to bullying.
However, they said that whether some form of choking game had been part of the tragedy had been a line of inquiry being explored by detectives.
It is understood that Police Scotland had briefed councillors that they did not believe there was any criminality linked to the incident.
They are understood to have interviewed witnesses and other children involved in the tragedy. On Wednesday, they were awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination.
“Something dreadful has clearly happened but it looks like a case of a silly game gone wrong,” said one source. “There is a lot of speculation but we don’t think it was anything sinister.
“The police are not treating it as a criminal case and it sounds like it could have been play-fighting which has turned into a tragic accident.”
‘Devastated’ school community
The school, around 20 miles from Edinburgh, is a Catholic comprehensive school. Its former pupils include the singers Susan Boyle and Lewis Capaldi.
Andrew Sharkey, the headteacher, said the school community had been “devastated” by the death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends and we extend our deepest condolences and offers of support,” he said.
“We have set up ongoing emotional support and signposting for students and staff affected by this tragic news.
“We would like to respect the family’s privacy at this incredibly painful time.
“We are assisting the relevant authorities with their investigation to establish the facts and we will not be making any further comment at this time.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Around 1.20pm officers were called to a report of concern for a 14-year-old boy at a school in the Bathgate area.
“He was taken by ambulance to hospital for treatment, but died a short time later. His family have been informed and inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the death.”