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Mason Mercer inquest: 16-year-old, from Gravesend, hanged himself after Northfleet Technology College performance ban

By Ed McConnell

A 16-year-old boy hanged himself after being banned from his school's production, an inquest has heard.

Talented actor Mason Mercer, of Gravesend, and a group of other boys walked over the brow of a hill and out of sight while on a field trip to Folkestone in September.

The following day the Northfleet Technology College pupil was called into a meeting where he was banned from all future school trips, including one to Disneyland Paris, and the production of Dick Whittington, in which he was due to play a lead role alongside his girlfriend.

Mason Mercer, 16, was found dead at his home in September
Mason Mercer, 16, was found dead at his home in September

Hours later his mother, Anita, found him hanging at home. On her way to the house she had received a call from the school telling him he would be allowed to perform but not in a leading role.

Paramedics and police were called but tragically could not save the teenager.

In an inquest lasting less than 10 minutes coroner for North West Kent Roger Hatch gave a verdict of suicide.

He said while there was no history of mental health issues it was clear Mason had intended to take his life and offered his condolences to the family.

Now Mason's family is considering legal action against the school for the way he was treated.

Speaking after the hearing his father Jason Hancock said: "Drama was Mason's passion, he absolutely loved it and he wanted to study it at theatre school.

The inquest was heard at Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone
The inquest was heard at Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone

"He was a member of Centre Stage at The Woodville and they put on a massive performance in his memory. More than 500 people came to his funeral.

"He was such a lovely boy, he adored his family and he would practice his parts with his two younger siblings.

"He had holidays planned to Goa and Butlins and he had celebrated his 16th birthday just five days before. He was in a good state of mind.

"Drama is what he lived for. His mum told the school not to ban him from the play as it would tip him over the edge.

"The punishment to me does not fit what he did, sure ban him from the school trips but don't don't ban him from the performance."

He added: "The school has never offered its condolences and even tried to stop students going to his funeral."

The school were approached for a response to the issues raised by Mr Hancock.

Mrs Partridge said: "The whole school was shocked and deeply saddened at Mason’s death. He was a talented student who is sadly missed.

“Senior members of staff offered condolences to Mason’s family following his death and staff liaised with them regarding funeral arrangements.

“The staff and students, identified by the family, attended Mason’s funeral and a floral arrangement was sent from the school. In addition, the school purchased a memory tree, which was on display at Mason’s funeral and contained messages sent to the family.

“The school arranged for counsellors to support any students or staff affected by this tragic event.

“Student safety is paramount, particularly on school trips. Risk assessments are conducted, which outline potential hazards and it is expected that students follow the instructions given. The school has a protocol in place to sanction students, which may result in privileges being withdrawn. That protocol was followed in this case.

“The school has not received any formal complaints from Mason’s family but will co-operate fully with any future investigation.

“Our thoughts remain with Mason’s family and his many friends, both in and out of school, at this terribly sad time.”

If you would like confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans free on 116 123 at any time, or visit the Samaritans website.

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