A Leighton Buzzard teenager who died in a tent at a music festival, may have been suffering from hallucinations and making a cry for help rather than intending to take his own life.
At an inquest on Wednesday, an open verdict was recorded on the death of 17-year-old Matthew Jones despite him sending an “I’m sorry” Snapchat message to friends and asking them to pass it to his parents. He also texted a friend saying “I’m going to die.”
Coroner Darren Salter said he was unsure whether Matthew intended to kill himself so was left with having to reach an open conclusion. Earlier he had heard how the teenager was found in his zipped-up sleeping bag with a plastic carrier over his head.
Witnesses said that earlier Matthew had sent them a Snapchat to his friends which read: “Tell my friends and family it’s okay. I’m sorry.”
Matthew, of Albany Road, was found dead inside his tent when his friends returned from the final act of the evening at the Reading Festival site, the inquest in Oxford was told.
The young man, who had not been deemed a high risk but had suffered from moderate depression, had taken recreational levels of the ketamine drug and alcohol in the arena when he told his friends he wanted to return to the campsite.
Before leaving, he had turned to one of his friends and told him “If I’m high, strangle me” before walking off from the main stage on his own at around 6pm.
The coroner heard that in the early hours of August 28, his close friends returned to the white zone camping area of the Reading Festival, across the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border to Mapledurham, to discover the teenager’s body.
In a police report read out at the inquest, the boy’s friends said they had first thought he had been hiding as a joke but had then unzipped the sleeping bag to find he was not breathing.
Despite desperate efforts to save his life, paramedics pronounced him dead at 2.17am.
The following day, it was found that Matthew had sent a number of messages to friends and acquaintances, including a group Snapchat that read: “Tell my friends and family it’s okay. I’m sorry.” and a text to friend that read “I’m going to die.”
A toxicology report revealed he had 102mg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his system at the time, only just above the 80mg drink-drive limit, which would have left a normal social drinker moderately drunk.
It was also found that the level of ketamine in his system was at 0.26mg per litre, which was consistent with recreational use of the drug.
The inquest heard that the drug could have left Matthew in a dreamlike state or caused him to hallucinate, and coroner Mr Salter said in an open conclusion that there was not enough evidence to show that the teenager had meant to take his own life.
A report by support worker Brian McDermott at Aquarius, who had met Matthew shortly after a friend’s accidental overdose, revealed he had been drinking three to six days a week as a result of the tragic loss.
One of Matthew’s close friends, told the inquest: “I know that Matthew has been quite badly depressed for a couple of years. I don’t think he has ever tried to kill himself before.
“While we were at the festival, Matthew worringly mentioned something about hanging himself. I thought he was joking or trying to be funny.”
He said that after some members of the group, including Matthew, had taken ketamine, he had noticed his mood had changed significantly, and he said several times that he wanted to go back to the camp.
When the group returned at 1.55am and he entered Matthew’s tent but had not seen the teenager at first because his sleeping bag had been zipped shut.
He said he had opened the zipper, thinking his friend was having a joke, and added: “Matthew lay on the floor on his side wearing the shorts he had on earlier.
“I had been shouting “wake up” and got one of our friends to help perform CPR.”
Recording an open conclusion Mr Salter said: “I am satisfied that Mr Jones did voluntarily do the act which was to place a plastic bag over his head. The cause of death was described as asphyxia by the pathologist.
“I am not sufficiently sure that Mr Jones had fully formed an intent to take his own life so I am going to return an open conclusion which is the only appropriate conclusion in this case.
“He may have suffered hallucinations, he may not have been able to form the intent to take his own life. I also cannot rule out that there was some form of attention seeking involved.”
Speaking after the inquest, Matthew’s grandmother, Nicolette Lethbridge, said: “He did not want to commit suicide, he just wanted somebody to help him.
“Matthew was actually a very quiet person. I think the noise and the lack of sleep and the fact that his friend had died in June and his grandfather now dying horribly of dementia, may have affected him.
“I think he wanted to be saved. I just don’t know why you would send emails if you wanted to commit suicide. The young children that he sent the emails to would not know what to do.”