Derbyshire boy, 14, who died from gunshot wound intended to take his own life, inquest finds

An inquest has ruled that the death of a Derbyshire teenager from a gunshot wound was a suicide.

Friday, 20th May 2022, 10:33 pm

Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard that Jack Geoff Spencer, 14, died at Adam Bede Crescent, Wirksworth on August 20 2021.

Coroner Peter Nieto read a statement from Zoe Ewings, Jack’s mother, in which she said that her son had a difficult time at school.

She mentioned a number of incidents in which he was bullied and assaulted by other pupils, and said he hated going, as he felt “completely unsupported” by staff.

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The inquest took place at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court inside the Town Hall.

On March 16 2020, she said that Jack reported having been sexually assaulted by a man in the Wirksworth area.

No one was ever charged in relation to these allegations, as it was felt there was not enough evidence for prosecution – Zoe said this had an impact on her son, who thought the police did not believe him.

On the day of his death, Zoe said that she and Jack had travelled into Derby, and had got into an argument about Jack not wanting to shop for clothes.

She added that she told him off on their way home, before dropping him off to go and buy some essentials.

When he got home, Jack phoned his father, Kevin Spencer. He, however, could not hear what his son was saying as he was crying and in distress.

Shortly after, Zoe arrived back at their home and went into Jack’s bedroom. He was not there, and she went into her bedroom where she found Jack on the floor. She initially thought he had fainted – only to realise that he had sustained a wound to his head.

She phoned Kevin and the emergency services at around 1.12pm, who soon arrived and began attempts to resuscitate Jack. Despite their best efforts, Jack could not be revived, and was pronounced dead at 1.45pm.

The pathologist who performed Jack’s post-mortem found that his cause of death was due to a gunshot wound to the head.

Jack had a keen interest in firearms – one that he shared with his father and older brother – and would take part in clay pigeon shooting with Kevin. Jack had saved up his money to buy a shotgun, which was held under a certificate in his father’s name. According to an investigating officer from Derbyshire Police, this hobby was the only time that he used the firearm.

Mr Nieto, summing up the evidence from the officers, said that Kevin owned a number of firearms, which were kept along with Jack’s shotgun in a secure cabinet under the stairs.

He said that the keys for the cabinet were stored in a metal cabinet inside a kitchen cupboard, and that as far as Kevin was aware, his son did not know the location of the keys.

Mr Nieto, however, added that the location of the keys was such that they were easy for Jack to find if he wanted to.

In his concluding statements, the coroner said that Jack’s devices were searched by the police for anything that might help understand his actions. They said that Jack had given no forewarning of what he was going to do, and nothing on his devices indicated his state of mind.

Mr Nieto said that, while Jack was clearly very upset on the day of his death, and had issues with both his school life and the sexual assault allegations, he could not say what issues had driven him to do what he did.

The coroner said that Jack’s action was clearly deliberate and that, given his knowledge of firearms, he knew the consequences. He ruled that Jack had intended to take his own life, and registered his death as suicide.