Leo Etherington, who was born Louise, hanged himself
A transgender teenager hanged himself when his school banned him from changing his name – but his head teacher still called him ‘Louise’ after his death.
Leo Etherington, who was born Louise but revealed to his father he felt he had been born in the wrong body, killed himself at home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, while his father believed he was revising for upcoming exams.
His father, Martin Etherington, said that despite anger at the school not letting him change his name, Leo had a supportive network of friends and family.
‘The school had told him he had to be 16 to change his name. He said that he was angry with the school. I said we could wait until he was 16 and legally change his name then,’ he said.
But, despite Leo’s tragic death, Wycombe High School still refused to accept his desires to change gender.
Head teacher Sharon Cromie, 51, said in a short statement: ‘Louise was a wonderful person in every way and is missed by us all.’
Mr Etherington, a lone parent after his wife died of breast cancer in 2013, said in a statement that was read out in front of Assistant Coroner Alison McCormick that he wasn’t initially worried when Leo did not come downstairs for dinner.
He said that he rang a bell that the family used to call everyone to dinner, but he only realised the severity of the situation when he unlocked Leo’s bedroom.
‘I heard him start playing his ukulele in his room. It then went quiet and I thought he was studying for his exams,’ he told the inquest.
‘I rang the bell and Robert came down, but I didn’t hear Leo. I thought he might have been listening to something on his headphones.
Leo Etherington was born Louise but revealed to his father he felt he had been born in the wrong body
Head teacher Sharon Cromie (pictured), 51, said in a short statement: ‘Louise was a wonderful person in every way and is missed by us all’
‘His bedroom door was locked, which was again not unusual. I thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep. I used a coin to unlock the door and I saw that he was not at his desk.’
It was then that Mr Etherington made the grisly discovery.
Emergency services were called to the house, but Mr Etherington recalled how, despite continuing to give his son CPR, he knew that it was too late.
‘I could see from the colour of his face and the coldness of his skin that he was dead,’ he said.
The 15-year-old, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had left a suicide note which was found by Detective Constable Andrew Hall.
The father added that he had always been accepting of Leo first coming out as gay and then saying he was trans.
He said that he had heard a programme about transexuality on the radio.
‘I talked to (at the time) Louise about this on the way home from school so she would know I was open to talking about it,’ he said.
‘When we got home, Louise went to the window and started playing her cello. Then she stopped and said: ‘I think I am trans.’
Assistant Coroner Ms McCormick recorded a verdict of suicide at the inquest at Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court (pictured)
Mr Etherington said that while it took Leo’s brother some time to come to terms with Leo’s gender identity no relatives had issues with it.
He said that he and Leo had attended gender identity sessions with CAMHS and that Leo’s GP, Dr Bacon, had said the NHS would not fund gender re-assignment surgery.
‘I told Leo I would fund any surgery when the time came,’ said Mr Etherington.
In her summing up at the inquest in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire,
Assistant coroner Alison McCormick ruled the death as suicide by hanging, saying to Mr Etherington: ‘You and Leo had a very loving, supportive relationship, and you provided all the support he needed.
‘I know this must be very hard but I hope you can take some comfort from that.’
A verdict of suicide was recorded.
- For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.