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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent

Archie Battersbee’s death was an accident, coroner concludes

Archie Battersbee
Archie was found by his mother with a ligature over his head in April 2022. Photograph: Hollie Dance/PA

Archie Battersbee, whose parents fought a lengthy battle to prevent his life support being switched off, died as a result of a prank or experiment gone wrong, a coroner has concluded.

After two days of evidence from Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, medical staff and police, Essex’s senior coroner, Lincoln Brookes, said on Wednesday his official verdict was that the 12-year-old’s death on 6 August last year was caused by an accident.

He said: “I don’t think I can be entirely satisfied as to how this accident happened … 12-year-old boys don’t necessarily have a reason [for their actions]. Sometimes they have bad reasons, sometimes they have no reasons at all.”

The coroner added that Archie “had not intended to harm himself but had done inadvertently during a prank or experiment that went wrong”.

He based his conclusions partly on the fact that Archie, who was found by Dance with a ligature over his head, had placed it over his head on the evening before he was found and tied it to a door that he then opened and closed using it.

Responding to Dance’s concerns that Archie had been taking part in an online “blackout” challenge, Brookes said it could not be ruled out, but nor could hundreds of other possibilities and he could only go on the evidence available to him.

The coroner’s court in Chelmsford heard that Archie had struggled when his parents split up in 2015, which had affected his behaviour, and his education had been disrupted. He had been depressed, received counselling and had talked about “ending it” in messages on WhatsApp groups and to his mum.

The inquest was also told that Archie was sent a message on 3 April last year, four days before the accident, saying: “Oi Archie, do you know why you’re angry? Because your mum wanted you to be an abortion.”

But, ruling out suicide, Brookes said he was concerned only with Archie’s state of mind on the day of 7 April, when the fatal injury occurred. He said that, as police investigators concluded, Archie had been looking ahead on that day, planning to buy a new coat and to go to the cinema that evening and excited about his first MMA fight, due to take place later that month.

“The happy-go-lucky, cheeky chappy I have heard about was the Archie present on 7 April,” he said.

Responding to the verdict, Dance said that on the day of the accident Archie came home “a happy, pre-teenage boy” but “little over an hour later, he was found in a way that changed his life, changed my life, his entire family’s life and actually changed the life of the community”.

She said the result was that a “tragedy was born for the next four months”. Thanking the coroner and her legal team, Dance said her concerns about TikTok and online challenges had been aimed at protecting others and that, during evidence, the head of the police investigation had said she was right to raise them.

Dance, 47, concluded: “I’m asking now for the privacy to rebuild my family and rebuild my life and put behind me the trolls and the disgraceful online bullying that is so much part of the education programme [that she is advocating].

“We want to make sure that future generations of people coming along behind Archie never have to suffer again.”

  • In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or by emailing or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

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