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29 September 2010, 17:22
A boy accidentally hanged himself while playing on a rope swing in his garden after school, an inquest heard today.
James Bray, nine, was still wearing his uniform when the tragedy struck at his home in Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire, in July this year.
While his mother, Sarah, and older brother, Sam, 11, fed their horses in the two-acre garden, the "appalling nightmare'' happened when James's head became trapped in the two strands of the knotted ropes, the hearing in Winchester was told.
Mrs Bray let out a "piercing scream'' when she saw her son, known as Jamie, lifeless as she walked down the drive of their detached house because he had not answered her calls.
She got him down from the swing and tried to resuscitate him while neighbours and friends, who heard her cries for help, called for an ambulance or tried to help revive the youngster.
James's parents were not at today's hearing but a statement from company secretary Mrs Bray statement was read out.
She said James had opened the gate to their property for her to drive through on July 13 and then he had asked to play on the swing just inside the gate.
She then went inside with Sam but later, after feeding the horses, she called her son and received no reply, so she walked down the drive.
"I then saw James hanging by his neck. I ran to James. I started to panic and screamed for help. I saw he had his head between the loop.''
Mrs Bray, 42, grabbed her son from the loop and started to resuscitate him on the ground.
"At this time I was really panicking and I knew James was dead. I think I knew in my heart of hearts my son was dead,'' she said.
"My family and I are absolutely devastated by the loss of our son.
"James was an extremely healthy boy who loved playing outdoors but he was not always aware of danger.''
James was taken to hospital and his mother and father, Richard, were present when his life support was switched off.
The family had been planing to go out for a meal that night to celebrate Mr Bray's 41st birthday but he got home to see his son lying lifeless on the ground, the inquest heard.
Neighbour Alison Peck said she ran to help when she heard a "piercing scream'' and found Mrs Bray giving her son CPR.
"She shouted at me 'Call an ambulance','' Ms Peck said.
A post-mortem examination showed that James was suspended off the ground by his chin and there was a possibility that he could have dropped. Getting caught had quickly led to him becoming unconscious.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, Deputy Central Hampshire Coroner Simon Burge said the tragedy could not have been either avoided or anticipated.
The father-of-three said that, in times where children were often "mollycoddled'', James's parents should be "applauded for making provision for a healthy, physically challenging life'' and they should not feel responsible for his death.
"Children have to be allowed to grow and develop and be allowed to have some unsupervised play,'' he said.
He said James came from a "loving, responsible and caring family'' and that the scene must have been an appalling nightmare.
"James somehow managed to get his head caught in the two strands of the rope. He lacked sufficient strength to pull the strings apart.
"This is an accident that could not have been anticipated let alone avoided.''