A teenager accidentally suffocated himself with a plastic bag after he spent his life bravely overcoming the challenges of living with cerebral palsy.
Lewis Ashcroft’s family had been warned by doctors he would never eat, talk or walk – yet he defied all the predictions, attended a local college and developed a keen interest in IT and gaming.
But last November 3, aged just 19 Lewis was found dead in his bedroom at home in Runcorn, Cheshire, by his uncle.
He died while his parents Keith and Susie – who work with children with special needs – were away at an education conference in London.
Lewis Ashcroft’s family had been warned by doctors he would never eat, talk or walk – yet he defied all the predictions but died accidentally when his parents were away, his inquest heard
His family believe the youngster ‘got himself in a tizz’ having earlier told his mother: ‘Do you have to go?’ as they talked about the conference.
At an inquest a coroner ruled Lewis’ death as an accident, saying ‘he was not satisfied’ the youngster had intended to kill himself.
The coroner has said ‘he was not satisfied’ Lewis had intended to kill himself
Lewis – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a baby – was a happy teenager and showed no signs of depression, the inquest heard.
Despite his condition he led an independent life and completed his school studies before enrolling at Riverside further education college in Widnes.
His father Keith, an advocate for the disabled and former school governor said: ‘We were told pretty early on that Lewis would never talk, walk or eat but we just continued pushing – we were not prepared to write him off.
‘He struggled very early on with walking and got a wheelchair which he used early on. But as he started to grow he became more independent and by the age of 12 he had stopped using it. After being told he would never walk or eat he overcame all of that.
‘He went to school and loved IT and in September 2017 he started at Riverside College. Lewis would never talk about school or college but was doing all sorts of activities. He had a love for computer games and his x-box.
‘I can’t remember the last Christmas where we didn’t buy him something to do with his x-box. A game called Skyrim was his favourite and he used to talk online to other players.
‘In the lead up to November I had no concerns at all. We tended to go away once a year and in the past Lewis was left and home with some food and instructions.
‘Whenever we went away we would take him food shopping but on this particular day he didn’t want to go shopping.
‘He had apparently said to his mum: ‘Do you have to go?’ But I didn’t find out about this until afterwards.
Lewis – who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a baby – was a happy teenager and showed no signs of depression
On Thursday morning we went for coffee and he was fine but when we left about 12pm that day he didn’t seem his normal jolly self – he was a little bit downbeat.
‘We kept messaging him throughout the day on Friday but got no response. The conference finished about 5pm and we still had not heard from him and I rang the local police but was on hold for over half an hour so I just put the phone down.
‘At that point I rang my sister who got Lewis’s uncle to go round to our house. I believe Lewis just got into a tizz and didn’t get out of it – but nobody will ever know.’
Lewis’s uncle David Lawton said: ‘Keith rang my wife and she asked me to go round and check on Lewis. They had rung him a few times and got no answer and so wanted me to check. I opened the letter box and knocked on the door but there was no reply. I climbed in through a window and went to Lewis’ bedroom and I found him on the bed.
‘I re-live it every single night. I can’t walk into a dark house. When I am checking on my children I have to have the light on.’
Det Insp Alison Howarth of Cheshire Police said: ‘I was told Lewis spent a lot of time in his bedroom playing x-box and had a particular interest in the gaming world. I was able to turn on his x-box and there was a game called Skyrim but there was no obvious information there to suggest was linked to suicide.
‘His gaming account ‘newalliance250’ had 46 friends but his messaging history revealed nothing of note.
‘No suicide note was found and there was no third party involvement or suspicious circumstances.’
Recording a conclusion of accident, Coroner Adam Fulwood said: ‘Although Lewis’ parents were told he would never talk, walk or eat he managed to do all three and he continued to make progress. He had from an early age an interest in technology and in September 2017 he began at college.
‘He loved gaming and his x-box which he orbited around. He was a loving and emotive person and ad a good relationship with his parents.
‘His father said he couldn’t point to any concerns but in hindsight Lewis did make a comment about whether they had to go away and he indicated he didn’t want to go shopping as he usually would.
‘There was no evidence he was suffering from depression and no self harm. There was no evidence that he wished to take his own life. He had significant challenges in life but he quite clearly overcame these challenges. He was not defined by his disability.’
Lewis’ parents are currently setting up a charity called The Lewis Foundation which will offer support to families when they are told they have a child with disabilities.