A GRIEVING father has recounted the heart-wrenching moment he found his son’s body hanging in Alice Holt Forest, during an inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court.
A coroner has concluded Frensham schoolboy Oliver Strode committed suicide, after the 17-year-old was found dead after an 11-day search soon after the first lockdown was imposed earlier this year.
‘Oli’, as he was known to his friends and family, hanged himself after recording a farewell video message on his phone saying “life is meaningless”, the inquest heard last week.
The teenager, who attended Wellington College in Berkshire, disappeared just a day after discovering his A-level exams had been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He had previously performed poorly in his mock exams, the court heard.
Oli was officially reported missing on March 19, and members of the public contributed to a huge search of Alice Holt Forest after his mountain bike, cycling jacket and helmet were found in the woodland.
However, he was found dead by his father on the morning of March 30, 11 days after leaving his home for a cycle ride in the nearby forest.
Recounting that moment in court, Richard Strode, Oliver’s dad, 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.
“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 court heard how Oli loved survival-based TV shows such as SAS Who Dares Wins and Hunted and often walked barefoot through the grounds of his boarding school.
He had also been a keen cross-country runner before he developed the foot condition plantar fasciitis. Mr Strode, a property developer, said he believed this had been the start of his son’s depression.
He told the inquest: “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 was a very inquisitive boy and very active. He was much happier outside than he was inside throughout his life.”
Richard added his son wanted to write a book about surviving in the wild, and was a “bright and logical” thinker but struggled to focus on his A-Levels.
Oli had been sent home from Wellington College on the day of his death, after a pupil tested positive for coronavirus.
When his son arrived home Mr Strode said he reassured Oli that everything would be fine and that he didn’t need to worry about the future.
But shortly afterwards, Oli told his family he was going for a bike ride in Alice Holt Forest, and he was seen alive at around 11.15am on March 19.
A video suicide note Oliver recorded 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.
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.
Mr Pegg concluded a verdict of suicide.
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