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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Haroon Siddique

‘No evidence’ Archie Battersbee did TikTok blackout challenge, coroner says

Archie Battersbee and his mother, Hollie Dance
Archie Battersbee and his mother, Hollie Dance. Photograph: Supplied

Archie Battersbee accessed TikTok on the day he suffered a catastrophic brain injury but no evidence has been found that he was taking part in the online “blackout challenge”, a coroner’s court has heard.

Archie, whose parents fought a lengthy but ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to prevent his life support being switched off, sustained the injury on 7 April at his home in Southend, Essex, when a ligature was found over his head.

His mother, Hollie Dance, said she believed he had been taking part in the blackout challenge. She wants his inquest to examine how social media might have contributed to his death.

At a preliminary inquest hearing on Tuesday, in Chelmsford, Essex, DI Sarah Weeks read a police report which said that Archie, 12, had accessed TikTok on his mobile phone on 7 April. She said officers had been unable to ascertain what he had been watching and might never be able to do so.

However, photographs and videos downloaded from his phone provided no evidence that Archie had been taking part in the blackout challenge, Weeks said.

The officer added that a download of messages from Archie’s phone received that morning “reflected Archie’s mood” in the months leading up to his death. She concurred when the Essex chief coroner, Lincoln Brookes, referred to them as indicating “very low mood”.

Brookes said: “There is no evidence at this stage to substantiate the concern/fear of Ms Dance about [Archie’s involvement in] the choking challenge or the blackout challenge, whether on TikTok or on any other platform.”

Scrutiny of the phone will continue and police are to examine Archie’s Mac and Xbox, also removed from his house by officers on 7 April. They have been asked to produce a report based on all information gleaned from Archie’s electronic devices by 16 December, although Brookes urged Weeks to contact him if anything new came to light before then.

Dance’s lawyers have requested that TikTok be made an interested party in the inquest, which would mean it could be called to give evidence. But the coroner indicated there was insufficient information for that to happen at present.

Speaking after the hearing, Steven Horsley, from Simpson Millar solicitors, who is representing Dance, said: “Archie was using TikTok on the day of his injury, although we many never know what he was looking at. The police have yet to look at his two other devices but have been told to do by the court.”

The court was also told that Dance had concerns about Archie being taken to Southend hospital initially instead of directly to the Royal London hospital, which is a neurological centre and where Archie’s life support was withdrawn on 6 August.

Bart’s Health NHS trust, which includes the Royal London, East of England Ambulance Service, and Mid and South Essex NHS foundation trust, (home to Southend hospital) were all represented at the hearing.

The full inquest is scheduled to take place on 7 February 2023.

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