A 12-year-old boy unintentionally caused his own death after reading song lyrics about suicide and watching ‘depressing’ content on TikTok, an inquest heard.
Ethan Bourne was found dead in his bedroom by his mum on January 8 this year just two days after his birthday.
Coroner Graeme Irvine said there was not enough evidence to rule Ethan died of suicide and gave a conclusion of accidental death.
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He said: “I think I can safely find Ethan caused his own death but, in an accidental death, the person who caused the death didn’t intend for death to happen.
“They will engage in a high risk procedure in the hope a friend or family comes to save them and sometimes that inadvertently leads to death.
(Image: Samantha Legonidet)
The inquest at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard Ethan had celebrated his 12th birthday just two days before his death and was “happy and chatty” at a family party.
The aspiring footballer, from Waltham Forest, east London, had also ordered clothes online with his birthday money, which his family say show he was making plans for the future.
An examination of his phone found he had been looking up sad lyrics on the Internet in the days before his death. A distressing music video for the song he looked at depicted a man taking his own life.
- In 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
- Of these, 5,821 suicides were registered in the UK and 392 occurred in the Republic of Ireland.
- In the UK, men are three times as likely to take their own lives than women.
- In the Republic of Ireland, men are four times more likely to take their own lives than women.
- In the UK, the highest suicide rate was for men aged 45 to 49.
- In the UK, there has been a significant decrease in male suicide. The male suicide rate is the lowest in over 30 years.
This data was published in the Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2018.
Mr Irvine said: “There are some issues regarding searches for song lyrics which could be interpreted as indicative of a melancholic state of mind.
“The song was not on the computer but is available on the internet. The music video seems to be quite distressing.”
However there was evidence Ethan had also watched “innocuous videos” of teenagers dancing, and chatted to his friends about rap music and a pair of new trainers he’d just received.
A consultant paediatrician informed the Met Police there was evidence local children had been involved in “choking games” but there was no evidence Ethan was aware or involved in this, the coroner heard.
The inquest heard Ethan had also started to become more interested in the identity of his biological dad before he died and had been trying to find pictures of him on social media.
Mr Irvine said Ethan was referred to child mental health services in 2017 after the breakdown of a relationship between his mother and her partner at the time.
He said: “At this point there were concerns about Ethan’s emotional behaviour.
“He displayed his anger at times and during that period of time the family requested social services make a referral to CAMS – the mental health service for young persons.
Ethan had a clinical assessment but the family’s understanding is that it was determined Ethan had not required any further intervention.
”The inquest heard North East London Foundation Trust had “no concerns he was suffering from mental illness or had intentions to harm or end his own life”.
By 2018, Ethan appeared to be happier, the inquest heard, and the family moved into a bigger home where he had his own room.
Mr Irvine said: “He seemed happy within himself and enjoyed having his own space. He was very candid about his academic life and wasn’t keen on school.
“He would say to family ‘I’m going to be a football player, why do I need to go to school?’“
The children appeared to be confident and happy.
During Christmas 2020 Ethan had begun to ask questions about his biological father and wanted to know further information about him.“
It was known by the family that Ethan searched social media but wasn’t able to find any pictures of his biological father. It’s clear this was something on his mind.”
The analysis of Ethan’s phone also found he had searched for a site called “Find Your Dad Now”.
Ethan was the second eldest of six children and loved football and fishing, the coroner heard.
Giving his conclusion, Mr Irvine said: “There was no evidence Ethan searched methods for ending his own life or on a forum or chat pages relating to suicide.“
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health.
Here are some groups you can contact when you need help.
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence.
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill.
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141.
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information.
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Find out more here.
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Find out more here.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. There’s a website and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58.
Ethan’s Whatsapp messages with his social group do not show any obvious evidence of any significant upset in his life prior to his death or any sense of inappropriate behaviour such as bullying which would have made Ethan distressed.“
He had searched for song lyrics which were rather sad and depressing in nature. He had taken screen shots of song lyrics which referred to suicide and depression.
He looked at material on the internet, on TikTok, which related to sad and depressive feeds.“
Nothing of that material was urging or suggesting suicide but nonetheless it was sombre in its tone.”
He added that there was no evidence before him that Ethan “intended to cause his own death”.
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