Boy accused of asking to touch girl’s breast was treated like a ‘monster’ before suicide


A 15-year-old boy, who was accused of asking to touch a girl’s breast at a sleepover, has hung himself after he was vilified on social media by fellow pupils

Pictured: Max Thurnell-Read in a school production of Sister act where he played the lead male role.
Max Thurnell-Read was a talented 15-year-old

A 15 year old took his own life after he was accused of asking to touch a girl’s breast at a sleepover and then treated like a ‘monster’, an inquest heard.

Max Thurnell-Read was investigated by police who concluded he was not guilty ‘in any way shape or form’ and the complaint was dropped, the hearing was told.

But despite this, the teenager was vilified on social media and sent ‘toxic’ and ‘vile’ messages from fellow pupils.

His mother, Tracy Stevens, sobbed as she told the inquest how her son was ‘frightened’ of going to school as the situation was like a ‘witch hunt’.

She said: “The four weeks leading to his death with the messages he received ultimately led to his decision to take his own life.”

Max Thurnell-Read playing the guitar
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Image:

Family/Solent News)

Max Thurnell-Read (pictured with mum Tracy) was a proud member of the LGBTQ community
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Image:

Family/Solent News)

The month before his death, Max told a doctor he was feeling ‘really low in mood’ and ‘not 100 per cent himself’.

Although he had been joking with his father, Jonathan Thurnell-Read, just an hour earlier, he was found dead in his bedroom by his parents on May 4 last year.

The couple were left ‘traumatized’ after trying to resuscitate him for ten minutes before an ambulance arrived at their semi-detached home in Hampshire.

He was later pronounced dead at Southampton General Hospital.

The Year 10 pupil was described by his teacher, Michael Biles, as a ‘brilliant student – someone you would want to have in your class’.

But Max became ‘sad and withdrawn’ after the accusation was made following a sleepover in October 2020, the hearing was told, and in December he admitted to self-harming.

Max Thurnell-Read in a school production
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Image:

Family/Solent News)

The matter was reported to police but DI Robert Harrington told Winchester Coroner’s Court: “Nothing has been proven at all.

“Max was not found guilty in any way shape or form. My colleagues were satisfied that no further actions were to be taken. [Those involved] were updated of this.

“I have acknowledged that there were some things he could have done differently but it was something he could learn from and move forward from.

“They were recorded as crimes but it wasn’t appropriate to take further action.

“With regards to the allegations made towards Max, in some cases, even when the complainant does not want to take further action, the police will still take that action.

“That was not the case here and we were aware of that context.”

Despite this, Max continued to face ‘harassment’.

Ms Stevens added: “He was treated like a monster.

“They had him dressed in a corset that evening and said Max wanted to touch a boob. But they were all sexualizing each other.

“He said ‘I have clearly upset them. Yes the context is all wrong but I do not want to hurt them any more’ – and I did not think the girls got that.

“Distraught was not a strong enough word to describe how he felt. He just wanted his life back.

“They never saw the affect those messages had on him. He would put off reading these messages for days until he was with us.”

She added that he was a ‘proud member’ of the LGBTQ+ Community and first went to a Pride march in Southampton in 2019.

On the day of his death, Max had a ‘full day planned’ of counseling and drama.

And despite being reassured that the head teacher would meet him at the school gate to accompany him to class, he became ‘increasingly anxious’ and did not go in.

His counseling was also canceled by the counselor at the last minute.

Hampshire Area Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp said: “[Max] had been experiencing problems with a small peer group at school and had become very troubled by this during April 2021.

“Hopefully they will all reflect on the power of their words. It is important that people realize the consequences of a social media culture.

“I don’t think Max did anything wrong and things got out of hand.

“I’m so sorry – I don’t think his death was necessary.

“The only good that has come out of it is that there has been reflection on the power of words and the need to use them carefully, and that those involved in the future will be less quick to turn on someone and gang up.”

A post mortem examination revealed his cause of death was asphyxiation.

A Go Fund me page was set up for donations to Young Minds, a charity which supports young people, which has raised almost £3,500.

A bench in Max’s memory is at Ballard’s Lake, where his family went to think about him, and his mother said she was comforted by seeing other young people there, an inquest heard.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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