Post mortem fails to shed light on Kings schoolboy's death

By Rachel Tiffen, Vaimoana Tapaleao with Newstalk ZB

Was James a friend of yours?
Email the Herald newsdesk.

James Webster was a great all-rounder, his headmaster said. Photo / Supplied
James Webster was a great all-rounder, his headmaster said. Photo / Supplied

A post mortem examination has failed to shed any light on what exactly killed student of Auckland's Kings College James Webster.

The 16-year-old died in his sleep overnight on Saturday.

Earlier in the night he had been removed from a friend's birthday party, where he is believed to have drunk a substantial amount of vodka.

The autopsy carried out this afternoon has turned up inconclusive results. Police are now waiting for a full toxicology report which could take several weeks.

Students today wore white - the school's formal uniform - to mark the death of the 16-year-old, known to mates as "Webby" and described by his headmaster as a "wonderful boy and a great all-rounder".

James died in his sleep at the weekend after drinking at a friend's birthday party.

The Year 12 student was out on leave from St Johns House on Saturday night when he was found. He could not be roused.

Newstalk ZB reported James' uncle Donald Webster had said the family believed James took the alcohol to the party and consumed it in his car.

"My brother and James were staying overnight in Auckland at my mother's place.

"And we think James may have taken a bottle of vodka that had been sitting in that cupboard for 20 years. And he may have taken it to the party."

Donald Webster said James Webster's parents, sister and family were very distraught.

James' death follows recent high-level warnings over youth drinking - an issue addressed by friends and family on a special Facebook page dedicated to James.

Donald Webster, who signed off on Facebook as Uncle Donald, said it was "the saddest day in any family's life".

"Why can a 16-year-old get so intoxicated without one of his mates realising and doing something about it?" he wrote. "It is far too late to point fingers, but it is not too late to learn a lesson."

Mr Webster urged young people to look out for one another, saying: "As parents, we like our children to experience life, but we can't, and we shouldn't, protect you forever."

King's headmaster Bradley Fenner last night described James' death as "just a terrible tragedy".

"The cause of death has not been determined. What is known is that he died in his sleep during last night. I don't know the full details yet. I understand that he was at a friend's birthday party earlier on the Saturday evening."

The death follows the non-alcohol-related death of King's boarder William Thode, 15, in his sleep at school in February.

"I think after the tragedy earlier in the year we had hoped we wouldn't face something like this again, and sadly this has occurred," Mr Fenner said.

School chaplain Warner Wilder said last night that he had been at the boarding house with the other boys.

Last night, more than 700 people had joined the Facebook page paying tribute to James.

Diving buddy Jamie Rodriguez said: "So many times, we practised saving each other in the pool - wish I could've saved you last night. You are family James ... Diving will never be the same without you."

Other students referred to drinking with James, but his cousin Genevieve Kinraid said that added to her pain.

"After my beautiful cousin getting drunk and dieing i do not recommend putting up memories of u and james getting drunk together," she wrote.

"It pains me to think people hold these memories dear to them when that is how he died."

His friends needed to learn from his death. "Alcohol is not to be glorified or held in high esteem. It is a substance that if not consumed responsibly can have fatal endings."

Another cousin, Lana Webster, agreed. "James was my only boy cousin and he is now gone because of alcohol so please don't let the memories of him be of him drunk," she wrote. "He was more, so much more than that."

James came third in the Auckland secondary schools diving competition this year and last year won the 16- to 18-year-old section of the North Island springboard diving championships one-metre competition.

The Law Commission has advocated raising the legal drinking age to 20.


- NZ Herald

Your views

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 Apr 2017 06:30:09 Processing Time: 1330ms