A 15-year-old Salford schoolboy may have accidentally hanged himself with his school bag while swinging in trees for a lark, despite being found with a note in his pocket which said he was ‘fed up’.
James Jones is feared to have got tangled in the cord of the bag as he clambered around branches in woodland near his home on the day he was due to return to classes.
He was found hanged from a tree that evening by a passing dog walker and was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the run up to his death last April, James would regularly climb trees and swing from them with no thought for the risk involved.
At an inquest a coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure and blamed James’ death on ‘youthful exuberance’.
The hearing was told the teenager, of Clifton, Salford, was an ‘exemplary student’ at Harper Green High School in Farnworth, Bolton who excelled in art and pursued keen interests in chess, sailing, scuba diving and computer games.
His family said he had a ‘heart of gold’ and was a hard-working, polite, conscientious boy who always did well at school.
But James was not a youngster who feared danger and would regularly scale trees and swing between them as part of a game.
He would also occasionally skip days of school if he had stayed up all night on his laptop and wait until his mother Wendy, 43, had gone to work before returning home.
His sister Ashleigh, 21, added: “He would climb really high up trees and you could just see the light from his GameBoy.
“One day we were looking for him and we heard a whistle and looked up and he was dangling and laughing from a conifer.”
In the days before his death James had been playing on his Xbox with his brother as normal and discussing his upcoming exams with his parents.
Tragedy struck on April 28 on his first day back at school after the Easter Holidays when he left to go to school as normal only to slip away to Clifton Marina and Country Park.
Mrs Jones, a care co-ordinator, had no idea James hadn’t attended classes until she became concerned for his welfare when he wasn’t home by 6pm.
Thinking James would be at his friend’s house, Mrs Jones and her husband Barry, 43, got ready to drive round until a policeman knocked at 10.30pm saying their son’s body had been found around three hours earlier.
Schoolbooks were strewn across the surrounding area and a note was found in James’ pocket which said he was ‘fed up’ and wanted to leave all of his possessions to his younger brother.
But Mrs Jones told the Bolton hearing: ‘’I don’t think he tried to take his life. James had written a note saying he was fed up and he left all his belongings to his younger brother and ‘don’t be sad’, but he scribbled that out.
“The word ‘cheese’ was also used. We didn’t understand what it meant when we first saw it. After he died one girl at school said he used to make her laugh when he would run up to people at random at school and shout ‘cheese!’
“I think he was trying to swing up in the tree and got caught. He would do off the wall things and not see any danger. It has only come to light when I’ve been speaking to his friends that he would do mad things. You could say ‘you could kill yourself’ but he didn’t think of it in that way. He thought it was something to have a laugh. He used to jump into the river and it’s not very deep.”
Searches of James’ computers and schoolbooks gave no indication that he had thoughts of harming himself and he was making plans to stay behind after school to focus on exam revision.
Recording a verdict of misadventure Bolton coroner Alan Walsh said: “He feared no danger. He was a young man known by his family not to fear danger. He would climb trees to hide from his friends and surprise people and do what might be considered to be reckless as a method of surprise or performing pranks.
“For him to be climbing from trees or swinging from trees was not alien to him or something he hadn’t done before. The note is difficult because it could be a final message or on the other hand there is nothing in the note that fits with his way of life.
“He had made a decision not to go to school and he couldn’t go home so he would go to a place he knew and he could swing in the trees – an activity he was used to doing. It is likely that in the course of that activity he died, and died without the intention to cause death. I think something horrible has gone wrong and there was nobody there to help him.”
“I’m not sure he intended to take his own life. I’m not sure because members of his family say they don’t believe he intended to do it.
“I’m greatly saddened by the death. Apart from his school absences he was a model pupil with potential and ability that could have manifested itself in the future.”
After the inquest, his father Barry, a service engineer, wept as he said: “I’m happy they have said he didn’t do it on purpose because we never thought he did. He was a very happy boy and we miss him so much.”
Andrew Foster, headmaster at Harper Green High in Farnworth, said: “James had no problems at school. James was a model pupil, he was conscientious, and polite, a lovely boy. He didn’t present any issues with his behaviour or pastoral needs. It comes as a complete shock.”
Story via Cavendish Press.