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Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 10:42 GMT


Education

Eton boy's fatal strangling game

The dead boy was a pupil in Baldwins Bec House at Eton

An inquest has heard that a pupil at Eton College who was found hanged had been indulging in a 'fainting game'.

Nicholas Taylor, 15, was found by a fellow pupil last month, hanging from a dressing gown cord in his bedroom at the top independent school.

An inquest at Windsor Guildhall, Berkshire, heard how pupils would deliberately starve their brains of oxygen in the game.

The East Berkshire Coroner, Robert Wilson, recorded a verdict of misadventure on Nicholas, who was from Esher, Surrey.

"I have been sitting in this court for 28 years and I thought I had heard everything," he said.

"How naive can I be? The fainting game - in my language, attempted strangulation - taking place between boys who are some of the cream of our society and probably of above average intelligence. Why?

'Inevitable'

"What words spring to mind? Crazy, mad, stupid. What on earth were they thinking of? What would be the inevitable outcome sooner or later?

"It is clear to me that Nicholas tried to do it himself. He had no intention of taking his own life. There was no-one who was pressuring him or bullying him to do it."

The headmaster of Eton, John Lewis, said later that since Nicholas's death it had emerged that eight to 10 boys in his house had been involved in the practice of "induced fainting" last term.

Housemasters had now spoken to boys "in the strongest terms about the importance of not doing such things or allowing others to do them," he said in a statement.

The inquest was told that the game had begun after Nicholas had accidentally strangled another boy during a playful fight.

"We were just fooling around and Nick started strangling me with his jersey and I fainted," the boy told the hearing.

"It was a surprise and the next thing I knew I was coming round and I did not know where I was.

Dressing gown cord

"I saw Nick laughing. He thought I was joking. He did not think I had fainted, but I had bumped my head on the ground.

"That was the beginning of the fainting game."

That night, back in their house, they strangled another boy until he passed out briefly.

Another boy, aged 14, said the practice usually involved a group of friends.

"Someone would tie a dressing gown cord around your neck and pull it tight until you fainted," he said.

'Something different'

"You sit on a bed and someone produces a dressing gown cord and it is wrapped around your neck. One or two friends will pull it until you feel dizzy and faint for a few minutes.

"The attraction was that it was something different - it made you feel abnormal."

The 'victims' would tap on a thigh, he said. When they stopped tapping, that was the signal for the cord to be released.

It is thought that Nicholas was alone when he died on February 22. His father, Malcolm, said at the time that he did not believe his son had deliberately committed suicide but that he had died whilst "thrill seeking".

Variations

"One of our other friends came running in and told me what had happened," the 14-year-old friend said. "I ran to Nick's room and saw his body facing the door.

"We got him off his dressing gown cord - it was around his neck and the other end was on his dressing gown peg in his door."

He said the game was played throughout Eton between supper and prayers in the evening. Every house had its own version.

A variation involved hugging someone hard. When they then stood up, the blood rushed from their head and they would feel faint.

Another pupil, who also cannot be named, said he was always worried that something might go wrong.

"It was something we thought about, but only at the back of our minds," he said. "It was just a prank. Usually people faked it and they pretended to faint."





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