A “quit-witted and bright” boy who was killed by a train appeared “cheerful” before stepping onto the tracks, an inquest has heard.
“Kind” 14-year-old Sam Connor walked “purposefully” towards the end of the platform just before he died but a coroner has been unable to conclude if he intended to kill himself.
It was the end of a school day and “popular” Sam was at the station with 200 fellow pupils when he and a friend deliberately walked off from the group towards the end of the platform.
Closing the inquest into the boy’s death on July 15, 2019, senior coroner Richard Travers said: “I cannot satisfactorily reach a conclusion as to where the truth lies and I must not speculate as to Sam’s reasons.”
Sam, from Chertsey in the borough of Runnymede in Surrey, was a a Year 9 student at Salesian School.
He died after being hit by a train at around 4pm at Chertsey station.
Mr Tavers said that as it was unclear what was going through Sam’s mind in his final moments, he “regretfully”, did not have sufficient evidence to record Sam’s death as suicide.
Mr Travers said Sam, with another boy, walked “purposefully” towards the end of the platform just before he died.
Before being hit by a train, CCTV from Chertsey station shows Sam appearing “cheerful”, Mr Travers said, which was in contradiction to his actions soon after.
The court heard from a boy with Sam at the time, who initially told the court the pair “drifted” away from friends towards the end of the platform.
However, CCTV footage showed them walking “deliberately” away instead, Mr Travers said. He
In presenting his findings, Mr Travers said it was clear Sam was born into a happy family who have described him as a “kind boy who was quick-witted and bright” and popular with peers. He was also, at times, an anxious boy.
Mr Travers referred to a brief period of time Sam spent with the children’s mental health services before his anxiety appeared to settle.
There was also another period of anxiety brought on when Sam moved from a small primary school to Salesian School, a large secondary school but, Mr Travers told the court, this anxiety was not something only he would have experienced.
The court heard how Sam appeared to his family and teachers as a generally happy 14-year-old in the summer of 2019. He was looking forward to a holiday in Spain with friends and would talk about future plans such as his career aspirations.
He sometimes received detentions at school, but this was nothing unusual for a boy of his age, Mr Travers continued.
“What is unusual is what a number of friends said about how he spoke of suicide and killing himself, but it is not clear why,” Mr Travers said.
Sam would often mention taking his own life to friends and the way he would do it, and spoke about it on the day he died and prior to it.
Mr Travers said it was Sam’s friends’ “communal conclusion” that it was a joke, and Mr Travers believed for that reason they did not feel they should refer Sam to someone in a position of authority.
Leaders at Salesian School previously told the court Sam did not present “as a student of immediate concern”.
The inquest previously heard Sam had mentioned a ‘suicide pact’ to friends and had spoken in school about taking his own life.
One statement from pals at school read: “That day [July 15] he had been joking about killing himself but he had done it lots of times before so we thought he was just joking.”
The coroner also heard that Sam had texted a pupil to say “I am going for a while, do not forget me” before the incident.
School leaders were asked why they were not aware of the vulnerability of the 14-year-old boy, given that he had spoken about taking his own life.
The senior coroner noted that on the same day of his death, Sam received a school report and was not happy with his results.
However, Mr Travers said there was “no compelling evidence” to suggest the report played a part in Sam’s death.
Presenting his findings, Mr Travers also referred to the list of names found on a folded up piece of paper, tucked inside Sam’s English book, An Inspector Calls.
The inquest previously heard the names, which included two teachers as well as pupils, were written “to blame people”.
However, Mr Travers said he was satisfied they were added mostly for a “source of amusement”.
In his short narrative conclusion, Mr Travers recorded Sam’s cause of death as a lacerated wound to the neck.
He was able to find that Sam died as a result of his own deliberate act, but his intention could not be established.