A CORONER questioned today whether the infamous Momo Challenge played a part in the death of a teen who was found hanged at his home.
Tragic Luke Bunce, 13, was found dead by his mum, Stephanie, after she returned home from a short trip to Tesco on March 10.
The youngster had been researching ‘hanging anime’ while his family was out.
Despite the desperate attempts to revive him with CPR by his mother , Luke was rushed to the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, where he was declared dead.
An inquest held today heard when his mother had opened her son’s phone internet explorer, she had discovered he had been viewing black and white cartoon images of people hanging.
Mrs Bunce told the coroner: “As parents, we are careful to monitor what the boys research and look at. We have all of the computers locked down as well so that some of the things cannot be accessed.
“We used to check his WhatsApp messages, but he had no Facebook or Instagram, no other access to social media. We’d charge his phone at night, so he knew we’d have it.
“I think Luke was experimenting on this day for some reason. He did not understand the dangers of what could happen.”
‘DON’T DO ANYTHING SILLY’
She added that it was the first time her son had been left alone inside the house for almost a year, after a previous incident where he had been playing with a lighter and then set some paper on fire.
Luke had run away out of the back door of his home on Pimpernell Way, Basingstoke, Hants., and when he was found, his parents had put the incident down to curiosity.
On the day of his death, she, Luke’s father Christian Bunce, and Luke’s younger brother had gone out, leaving Luke alone wearing just his pyjamas and playing video games, his mother had told him “not to do anything silly and that would he would be okay.”
A paediatric pathologist, Samantha Holden, told the coroner a mark on Luke’s neck showed his death would be consistent with death being caused by pressure on the neck.
An examination of his brain showed it had been deprived of oxygen as he died, the inquest heard.
‘NOTHING TO SUGGEST THIS WAS INTENTIONAL’
Detective Sergeant Dawn White, who had spoken to Luke’s friends and looked at his computer, told the coroner: “Just prior to Luke’s death, Luke was researching hanging anime.
“Cartoon animations of various figures which were hanging, cartoon characters and, from memory, Luke first started to search hanging in January this year and then just prior to his death.
“There were about 44 images in total of different characters. There were cartoons and there were some of the old-fashioned type of people hanging. They were all images.
“There was nothing to suggest that Luke was looking to do this intentionally, nothing on his phone to suggest this was anything other than what he was researching.”
Det. Sgt. White said Luke had many friends who he enjoyed playing card games and Dungeons & Dragons with. All had spoken of him as a happy boy.
He kept in touch with his pals via various WhatsApp groups which he was a member of and police had found evidence that the notorious the Momo challenge had been discussed in one of which Luke was part.
DEADLY MOMO CHALLENGE
The Momo challenge was an online urban myth which hit international headlines this year and which claimed a hideous masked figure was appearing to children via the TV and internet when their parents were not at home and encouraging them to harm themselves and others.
Celebrities, including reality star Kim Kardashian, who warned parents about Momo, had been caught up in the online hoax and parents had expressed concerns across the UK.
Det. Sgt. White said: “When Luke’s phone was examined by a specialist it showed Luke did not really get involved in that conversation.”
The acting coroner for North Hampshire, Mrs Sam Marsh added: “There is no suggestion that Luke took an active role in these conversations or chats.
“He just appears to have been included in a group where it was discussed. He does not appear to have done any research on Momo or any way to harm himself. The Momo challenge in itself has not played any causative part in Luke’s death.”
Parents Stephanie and Christian Bunce, who both attended the inquest in Basingstoke, Hants., cried as the coroner said she believed Luke’s death was a tragic accident.
“Luke appeared to be a completely normal and happy 13-year-old boy. He had wide circle of friends,” she said.
“He appeared to have normal, 13-year-old boy hobbies, he liked card games, he liked the anime, fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons.
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“I am sure Luke did not intend to commit suicide that day. Luke was curious and he was experimenting, trying something out, as with the previous incident.
“It [hanging] is a very very quick process and I do not think he would have appreciated the very small time frame he would have had to reverse his decision. Within around 10 seconds he would have closed his eyes and essentially gone to sleep.”
The coroner recorded a conclusion of death by misadventure.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or visit Mind’s website.