Boy, eight, 'found hanging from bed by belt'

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The Independent Online

An eight-year-old boy whose father had brought him to the UK for a good education was found hanging from his bunk bed by a belt, an inquest heard today.

Rexford Boateng was discovered by his 16-year-old brother Eric suspended from the upper bunk with his tongue hanging out.

An inquest into his death heard that while his four siblings were doing well at school, Rexford, originally from Ghana, had educational, behavioural and emotional problems.

Rexford, of Fletcher Way, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was described as a happy child who loved football and playing outdoors.

But he did not like doing his schoolwork, with which he struggled, the inquest at the Old Courthouse in Hatfield, Herts, was told.

Giving evidence, his headteacher Sally Short of Hobletts Manor Junior School in Hemel Hempstead said: "There were a number of agencies working with Rexford.

"Sometimes his behaviour could be disruptive within the classroom.

"If he found something difficult, sometimes he would refuse to do it.

"At times when he was upset he would start wailing, which was very distressing.

"Sometimes he was upset because he found his work too hard."

Not long before he was found dead, on October 25 2008, he was twice seen at school with swelling to his face, she said.

Although he had no particular close friends, he was a popular boy whose death had a big impact on the children at the school, Mrs Short added.

"He had the most wonderful smile and he was happy," she said.

The inquest heard that Rexford's father, Joseph Boateng, had brought him, his three older sisters, and Eric, to the UK in 2005.

His mother could not get a visa and so remained in Ghana, where she subsequently died - although Rexford was never told of her death.

Giving evidence, Mr Boateng said he came to the UK because he wanted his children to have a good education.

But although he valued learning very highly, Rexford did not want to learn, the inquest heard.

Mr Boateng said: "I didn't know what to do because I wanted him to get better."

He had been in contact with social services about ways to help his son.

Not long before he died, Rexford had been seen at school with a £20 note, which was then given to his family by the school.

The family, who were tight-knit, were going to have a meeting about this incident.

But before this could happen, the child was found dead in the afternoon while his father, who worked nights, was sleeping.

Mr Boateng said: "I was asleep and the kids came in and said 'wake up, wake up.'

"I went downstairs. I thought Rexford was sick. When I went into the room I saw him sitting on the bed.

"He had a belt around his neck."

His father hugged him but sensed he was already dead, he said.

He was taken to Watford General Hospital where doctors tried for 45 minutes to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead.

Giving evidence, consultant paediatrician Dr Amanda Equi said: "His neck was swollen and I could see a ligature mark on the neck. He had no other injuries."

There was some concern that Rexford may have seen a film on an African television channel called The Pastor's Wife, which could have given him the idea to do what he did, the inquest heard.

The family was not sure whether he had definitely seen the film however, and the scene in it which they feared could have influenced him was not very similar to the circumstances in which he died, the court was told.

Coroner Edward Thomas recorded a verdict of accidental death but suggested more could have been done to help Rexford.

He said: "I do not think Rexford intended to take his own life.

"I felt there was an opportunity from time to time for Rexford to have some support.

"He had tremendous support from his school and you, Joseph, were very supportive of the school's support.

"But I think there are sometimes issues where people need to have support and I think this need may not have been met."

The child, he said, had been through a lot of change.

He told Mr Boateng: "You brought him to the UK for a laudable reason, because you wanted a good education for him.

"What that meant for Rexford was he left his mum and then she died and he never really knew what had happened to her.

"It may well be that if he had been able to talk about that it might have helped him."

A more proactive approach could have been taken by the various agencies involved with Rexford, he said.

"I think deep down there might have been some issues about his losses.

"It seems there were therapeutic needs there that seem to have been missed.

"If these opportunities had been taken, it may have made a difference, we don't know."