THE grieving stepfather of a popular teenager found hanged in woodland told an inquest he believed the death was a prank gone wrong.
Liam Collier, aged 15, died just weeks after his mum Deborah suddenly lost her battle with cancer at 35.
A Sheffield inquest heard from Liam’s step-father Alan Collier, who said Liam had never spoken about harming himself, showed no serious cause for concern after his mother’s death and seemed in a normal mood, even ‘playfighting’, on the day he died.
When asked if he thought there was any chance Liam was playing a prank that went wrong Mr Collier said: “I do believe that, yes.
“His personality was far better than anybody else’s. He could make a party into a good party. His personality was second to none - he was a joker.
“My thoughts mainly are that something went wrong, terribly wrong that day.”
The inquest heard Liam, a pupil at Wombwell High School, left the family home on St Helen’s Street, Elsecar, to meet some friends at about 6pm on April 30.
At 8.10pm dad Keith Winder’s partner received a call from his step-daughter, who was a friend of Liam’s, ‘in hysterics’ and ‘screaming’ that Liam had hanged himself.
He was the first adult on the scene at land off Millhouses Street, Elsecar.
Mr Winder said: “I was running down the banking and all the kids were at the bottom.
“They were all just screaming and I didn’t see Liam at first.”
Mr Winder tried to support Liam’s weight and when paramedics arrived soon afterwards, efforts were made to resuscitate him.
But he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Detective Sergeant Helena Day told the inquest Liam was found to have two photographs in his possession which he had shown to friends and said one was of his biological father.
His friends said he was alone on a rope swing, while they chatted, so they were not paying ‘too much attention to what he was doing’.
DS Day added: “A few of the young people did mention that, following his mother’s death Liam had spoken about taking his own life.
“Two young people in particular mentioned that Liam had told them he’d made slits to his wrist.”
But the officer also said no adults had seen the marks, the young people didn’t feel the need to ‘escalate’ the matter and it was ‘very difficult’ to draw a conclusion.
There were no suspicious circumstances and a post mortem found the cause of death was hanging.
Assistant deputy coroner Louise Slater recorded a narrative verdict.
She told Liam’s relatives: “The circumstances surrounding Liam’s death are particularly sad and tragic, I’m really sorry for your loss.”
Afterwards Mr Collier, aged 47, paid tribute to ‘outgoing’ Liam who was nicknamed Jack the Lad, also thanking his friends and school.
He added: “It’s been rough.
“I’m glad with the verdict, I think it sums it up. I still believe it was a prank gone wrong.”