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

Archie Battersbee’s mother calls for lessons to be learned from his death

Archie Battersbee hugging his mother, Hollie Dance
Hollie Dance with her son Archie Battersbee. The inquest into his death is expected to conclude on Wednesday. Photograph: Family handout

Archie Battersbee’s mother has told an inquest into his death that she cannot be sure how her son died but that she wants lessons to be learned from the tragedy.

Hollie Dance, who found her son unconscious with a ligature over his head on 7 April last year, said on Tuesday she believed her 12-year-old son accidentally fell after climbing on a banister. He died on 6 August after Dance was unsuccessful in a lengthy court battle to stop his life support being switched off.

She previously suggested that he was taking part in an online “blackout” challenge at the time of the injury but, on the first day of the inquest in Chelmsford, Dance said she could not be sure. This was because the police had stated that it was too late to ascertain details of what Archie viewed on TikTok on 7 April, when he was known to have accessed the app.

The court heard that Archie’s stepfamily had said that he had put a ligature over various parts of his body in the days before 7 April, and Dance said she believed he must have been copying something he had seen at school or online.

Asked by Essex’s senior coroner, Lincoln Brookes, how she thought her son died, Dance said: “I think he climbed on the banister and probably fell, causing serious injury to his neck, resulting in unconsciousness.”

She described her son, who loved gymnastics and climbing, as like a “monkey” and “having thought he was the next Spider-Man” when younger. She believed that what happened on 7 April was an accident.

Asked by the coroner whether Archie had been expressing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, Dance replied: “No.” She said Archie was the “apple of my eye” and that they loved spending time together.

Dance told Brookes that she wanted the role of social media, and Archie’s care immediately after the incident, to be investigated by the inquest. Her concerns about his care included that paramedics took him out of the house with no neck brace, that he was not on a scoop stretcher and that he was not taken immediately to the specialist Royal London hospital, where he would eventually die, but to the local Southend hospital.

Asked about Dance’s concerns, Kate Bennett, leading operations manager at East of England ambulance service trust, said Archie was taken out of the house “manually”, with paramedics supporting him appropriately, because there was insufficient room to get him on a scoop and it was only a short distance to move him outside.

She told the inquest that neck braces were not always used because of the “risk of increasing inter-cranium pressure on the brain”. Bennett added that it was customary to take patients to their local hospital when they were in cardiac arrest and receiving CPR.

Referring to the court battle with Barts health NHS trust over the decision to switch off Archie’s life support, Dance said: “I do want to make sure people know that I acknowledge the care and help that a lot of people have given or tried to give. I am sure people did what they thought was right, even though I disagreed, and it ended in Archie’s death.

“None of us should be afraid to learn lessons for the future.”

The inquest is expected to conclude on Wednesday.

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