Metro Weekly

Boy died by suicide after homophobic bullying left him ‘afraid to go to school’

Riley Hadley was bullied relentlessly at school after questioning his sexuality, an inquest heard

riley hadley, boy, suicide, gay, bullied
Riley Hadley (left) with his brother Jack Holmes — Photo: Jack Holmes

A 12-year-old boy died by suicide after he was repeatedly targeted by homophobic bullying, an inquest has found.

Riley Hadley, a former pupil at Sidmouth Community College in southwest England, was being homeschooled by his mother, Alison Holmes, due to the bullying.

She told an inquest at Exeter County Hall that her son was “afraid to go to school and the local park in fear of being bullied,” after other students had hurt him, kicked him into a road, and kicked and pushed him in the school’s corridors.

Friends of Hadley said that bullies had repeatedly told him they wished he was dead, including telling him to “do us all a favor and slit your wrists.”

Hadley had been questioning his sexuality, the inquest heard, and police interviews with almost 30 children confirmed that he was bullied because of it.

On October 15, 2019, after a discussion about Hadley potentially returning to school, he hanged himself in his room.

His mother found him unresponsive and cold to the touch, and a post mortem confirmed that he died due to asphyxia from hanging, DevonLive reports.

Holmes described her son as a “gentle, caring boy” and said he had confided to her that he thought he might be gay. Holmes said she had supported him, adding, “As he was still young I did not see it as a big concern.”

However, she made the decision to begin homeschooling him, rather than have Hadley return to school in September 2019 after the summer break, due to the bullying he was experiencing.

Holmes told the inquest that she wasn’t aware of any other issues, saying she had a “good relationship” with her son and he “would tell me if something was worrying him.”

Neither of his parents reported being aware that Hadley had considered self-harm, but his friends said that he previously threatened to harm himself — including claiming a previous hanging attempt — although they told police that they didn’t take the threats seriously.

On the day of his death, Holmes took her son for a routine doctor’s appointment, where he expressed being anxious about school.

When they returned home, she said they discussed whether he should return to school or hire a tutor to continue homeschooling, as Holmes’ work schedule meant she often had to leave him at home alone.

“He had a cry,” she said. “We talked and he seemed a bit better.”

Afterwards, Holmes left for work, leaving Hadley at home. He texted a friend around 11 a.m. saying, “I have to come back to school.” The friend asked why, but received no response.

At 4:10 p.m., Holmes came home and found Hadley in his room.

Assistant coroner Alison Longhorn told the inquest, “I am 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.”

Longhorn spoke directly to Hadley’s brother, Jack Holmes, who had moved to Spain shortly before his death.

“It must be heartbreaking to lose someone so young in these circumstances,” she said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for you all.”

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