An inquest into the death by suicide of a 12-year-old schoolboy in the United Kingdom heard how the young lad was mercilessly bullied at school in part because he was questioning his sexuality. Devon Live reported Riley Hadley, a former student at Sidmouth College, died October 15, 2019, after learning he might have to return to the school. According to witnesses, bullies had tripped Hadley in the school’s hallway, encouraged him to take his own life, chased him through a nearby park, and kicked him into a road. He had been homeschooled to avoid the abuse. His mother later found his lifeless body in their home hanging by the neck.
“He was afraid to go to school and the local park in fear of being bullied,” Hadley’s mother, Alison Holmes, said in a statement, describing her son as a “gentle, caring boy” who struggled in large groups and had recently confided to her he might be gay.
“As he was still young, I did not see it as a big concern,” Holmes continued.
While his mother was fully supportive of her son, bullies at his school were not so accepting. Instead, the inquest heard a litany of abuses suffered by Hadley at the hand of his callous classmates. Police reportedly interviewed dozens of fellow students who shared similar stories of bullying over Hadley’s sexuality, as well as his tendency to self-harm. He reportedly told a friend of a previous attempt at death by suicide years earlier, and another friend said Hadley did not expect to live long. Bullies reportedly encouraged Hadley to harm himself and take his own life, with one student reportedly telling the young boy to “do us all a favor and slit your wrists.”
Hadley was living with his mother in Sidmouth, Devon, at the time of his passing. His parents did not live together and his big brother Jack had recently moved to Spain. His father, Jody Hadley, said in a statement that his relationship with his son was “very good” although it was reported Riley had chosen to not see his father recently.
Holmes said she had taken her son to see the doctor for a routine appointment on the morning he passed, and the topic of his return to school had been discussed. Mom and son continued the conversation upon returning home, with Hadley clearly upset by the prospect.
“He had a cry,” she recalled. “We talked and he seemed better.”
Not long after a sent a text to a friend lamenting the fact he may have to return to school. His friend replied “why?” but Hadley never read the text. When his mother returned from work later that afternoon, she discovered his lifeless body.
Alison Longhorn, the assistant coroner investigating the case, told the inquest she was “satisfied that on the balance of probability, Riley put a ligature around his neck and, in doing so, very sadly intended to take his own life.”
Dad Jody said he would have done more to help his son had he known of the abuse he was suffering at school.
“I would have intervened if I knew,” he said. “I spoke extensively about bullying with him, but he never said he had a problem.”
If you or a friend are having suicidal thoughts, please know there is a well of support out there to help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities. If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, the Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger). Trained counselors at the Trevor Project Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at (866) 488-7386, by texting START to 678678, or via the TrevorChat instant messaging service at TheTrevorProject.org/Help.