Archie Battersbee’s mum recalls moment she found him unconscious

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Archie Battersbee’s mother believes her son died as a result of accidentally falling from the banister at their home, causing a neck injury which ultimately proved fatal, 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 The 12-year-old’s life support was withdrawn on August 6, 2022 after his parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, failed in their attempt to overturn a High Court ruling that doctors could lawfully do so.

Judges were told Ms Dance discovered Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head at their home in Southend, Essex, on April 7 last year.

On the first day of an inquest into his death in Chelmsford today, 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.”

Archie Battersbee Hollie Dance

Archie Battersbee and mum Hollie Dance (Image: PA)

Archie Battersbee

Archie Battersbee’s mum believes the teenager’s death was an accident (Image: PA)

Joseph Norton, in a written statement read to the court, said 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 performed CPR on Archie before the arrival of paramedics, said Alfie looked “pale” and his lips were turning blue.

Asked by Essex’s senior coroner Lincoln Brookes how she believed 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 believed Archie’s death to be an “accident”, she added.

An ambulance was called to the scene after reports that Archie was in cardiac arrest.

One paramedic told the court: “When I arrived there was a child on the floor on his back who had gone into cardiac arrest.

Hollie Dance Archie Battersbee

Hollie Dance has suggested Archie Battersbee may have been playing the blackout challenge (Image: PA)

Hollie Dance arrives at the inquest

Hollie Dance arrives at the inquest (Image: PA)

“There were no abnormal marks to his neck and nothing obvious to show massive trauma.

“He was pale in color and I started basic life support and chest compressions. There were no signs of head injury.”

Mr Brookes addressed concerns raised by Ms Dance about how her son was carried into the ambulance, and that he had not been given a neck brace.

She 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 said Archie was the “apple of my eye”, “well-loved” and “protected”.

She said Archie had been affected by the separation of herself and his father, that he endured bullying at school and was taken out of mainstream education.

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Archie was a lover of gymnastics and mixed martial arts (MMA), and his first fight, which he was “looking forward to”, was scheduled for weeks after his death, the inquest was told.

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.

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Archie Battersbee

Archie Battersbee’s family arrives at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court (Image: PA)

Paul Battersbee

Paul Battersbee, Alfie’s father, arrives for the inquest (Image: PA)

Ms Dance has previously said she believed he may have been taking part in an online challenge, and had 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.

“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.”

Speaking at a preliminary inquest hearing in November last year, Mr Brookes said 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.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year.

Alternatively, you can find more information on the Samaritans website here.

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