Public schoolboy, 17, hanged himself from 60ft up a tree after finding out his A-Levels would be cancelled due to Covid, inquest hears
- Oliver Strode died after climbing tree in Alice Holt Forest near Farnham in March
- He was discovered by his father Richard Strode some 11 days after he vanished
- Inquest heard how Oliver recorded farewell message saying ‘life is meaningless’
- For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123 or click here
A public schoolboy hanged himself in a forest after recording a farewell video message on his phone saying ‘life is meaningless’, an inquest heard today.
Oliver Strode, 17, died after climbing 60ft up a tree in Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire when he found out his A-level examinations had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March.
The teenager, who attended Wellington College in Berkshire, was found dead by his father 11 days after he left his £1.5million family home and cycled into the nearby woodland.
Oliver had been unable to focus while studying for his A-levels and had performed poorly in his mock exams, Winchester Coroner’s Court was told.
On March 19, the day after the Government announced that A-levels would be cancelled due to Covid-19, Oliver left his home and disappeared into Alice Holt Forest.
Oliver Strode (left with his father Richard), 17, died after climbing 60ft up a tree in Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire when he found out his A-level examinations had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March
Richard Strode, Oliver’s father, said: ‘I do not know what his plan was, because he was quite cagey. I think that morning he thought, no A-levels, school’s over, nothing going forward.
‘He was planning to go to Amsterdam with one of his mates but that had been cancelled. We had a couple of family trips to Italy and one going to Greece, they were perhaps going to be cancelled.
‘That morning, my opinion is he thought: ‘A-levels are going to be rubbish, they are over, the fun things I have planned were over, my close mates are off doing university in America, where do I go from here?’
‘Whereas obviously a rational person would say, ‘let’s see what happens in a few weeks time’, but I think it all got on top of him, linked with the depression, those few things could have been the final trigger.’
The coroner was told how Oliver loved the television shows SAS Who Dares Wins and Hunted and would often walk barefoot through the grounds of his £40,000-a-year boarding school.
The teenager had been a keen cross country runner until he developed a foot condition and was unable to compete at the same level.
The teenager, who attended Wellington College in Berkshire, was found dead by his father (seen together) 11 days after he left his £1.5million family home and cycled into the nearby woodland
Pictured: Mr Strode outside Winchester Coroner’s Court today ahead of the inquest
Mr Strode, a property developer from Fensham, told the inquest he believed this had been the start of his son’s battle with depression.
He told the court: ‘His friends say he created a philosophy called reverse living.
‘He thought society had got it wrong and that after leaving school you should go on adventures, climb mountains, and when your body slows down that is when you should go to university.
‘[He thought] you should go to university in your late 40s or early 50s and then you work until you die. He thought society had got it wrong and you should enjoy yourself while you can…
‘He was a very inquisitive boy and very active. He was much happier outside than he was inside throughout his life.’
He told the inquest his son was ‘probably the only barefoot walker to have ever been though Wellington College’ and wanted to write a book about surviving in the wild.
The independent boarding school has a raft of notable alumni including England rugby international James Haskell. It is part of the ‘Rugby Group’ and was built as a monument to the Duke of Wellington in 1859.
Mr Strode said his son was a ‘bright and logical’ thinker but struggled to engage with his A-Levels and told his sister he had done badly in his mocks.
On the day of his death, Oliver had been sent home from Wellington College – where he no longer boarded – after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus.
Oliver had been unable to focus while studying for his A-levels and had performed poorly in his mock exams, Winchester Coroner’s Court was told. Pictured: Oliver and Mr Strode in 2017
Immediately after hearing the news the teenager went and packed his bags and told his friends he was leaving, the inquest heard.
Mr Strode said: ‘On the Thursday they were immediately told, ‘Just go home’.
‘For all the sixth form boys, it was their last day at school, they were all milling around in stairways asking ‘are we going to see each other?’, ‘are you going to university?’, all that sort of stuff.
‘Ollie had no plans really. Maybe because he just did not want to be part of that conversation which he was not part of because he had nothing to say really, he went straight to his room, emptied his cupboard, packed his bag and packed his trunk.’
When Oliver came home Mr Strode said he reassured him that everything would be fine and that he didn’t need to worry about the future.
Shortly afterwards, Oliver told his family he was going for a bike ride in nearby Alice Holt Forest.
The teenager’s body was discovered by his father in Alice Holt Forest where he used to cycle regularly on March 30, 11 days after he went missing.
He had last been seen at around 11.15am on March 19 and a video suicide note Oliver recorded while in the tree showed he died that day.
In the video he said ‘life is objectively meaningless, I don’t enjoy it’ before telling his family he loved them.
His father said: ‘The sun came out and I looked up. There was a gap in the fir trees and the sun suddenly shone through and I saw something blue very high up.
‘I had been there to that spot ten times, if not more, in the past 11 days.’
Rescue teams aided by tracker dogs and a helicopter had combed the forest extensively and found no sign of Oliver.
Coroner Jason Pegg said: ‘Ollie wasn’t making plans, he had no plans for university, or a career or even shorter term plans such as going travelling or having a gap year.
‘Why that was is pure speculation.
‘Ollie recorded himself in the message. Clearly in that message he sates his intention to kill himself, to use his words.’
He concluded a verdict of suicide.
- For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details
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