London - A coroner is investigating the role of the violent videogame Call Of Duty in the deaths of up to four teenage boys who played it before killing themselves.
John Pollard said that in “three or four inquests... the Call Of Duty game seems to be figuring in recent activity before death”.
He added: “It concerns me greatly. It has figured in a number of deaths which I’m investigating.”
He was speaking at the inquest of gifted A-level student William Menzies, 16, who suffocated himself in his bedroom, where he frequently played the war-simulation game on an Xbox.
Like other violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, many releases in the Call Of Duty series have an 18 certificate but are often played by school-age boys.
In February 2012, Callum Green, 14, was found hanged after playing Call Of Duty with his stepfather. At the time, Mr Pollard urged parents to stop their children playing adult videogames, saying the age restriction was for a “valid reason”.
The South Manchester coroner said Call Of Duty had also been linked to the deaths of two other unnamed teenagers.
William lived with his parents John, 56, and Anne, 52, and older brother Alexander, 19, in the upmarket village of Hale, Greater Manchester, and attended Altrincham Grammar School.
Mr Menzies said: “Nothing about him caused concern. He was very taken with his studies and he enjoyed playing his Xbox. The game he always played was Call Of Duty.
“He was rather self-contained, he didn’t like going out a great deal. He didn’t drink or smoke – he was the opposite to that.
“He had exams coming up, but that wouldn’t cause him any worry as he was a straight-A student. He never threatened self-harm to my knowledge.”
Mr Menzies told the inquest that on February 17, during the half-term holidays, he was working at home and gave his son the science fiction novel Never Let Me Go to read.
“On one occasion I heard William laughing in his bedroom,” he said.
His wife sounded the alert later that afternoon when she went to check on their son, and the family tried to resuscitate him.
An ambulance came to the family’s home within ten minutes and rushed him to hospital, but he was later pronounced dead.
Mr Menzies said: “I would say William is a person who made his own mind up and carried things out, so... I would say that there is clear suggestion he intended it.
“He was happy that day and the last thing I heard him do was laugh, so I could only guess as to why he might have done it, but there is no doubt he intended to take his life.”
William’s brother Alexander said: “I remember him saying he had admiration for a philosopher who had decided to kill himself. He never said he was going to harm himself. During that day, at lunchtime, the two of us were making lunch together. He seemed cheery and in a good mood.”
Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Pollard said: “I suspect, but I don’t know because I don’t have enough evidence, that William may have been experimenting with something or deliberately intending.
“There is no doubt it was asphyxia. There was no note or indication he was feeling down or distressed.”
Mr Pollard recorded an open verdict at the inquest into the death of Callum, who was found hanged in his bedroom after being grounded by his mother following a row.
Coroners investigate violent or unnatural deaths, or those with an unknown cause. In some cases, a death may be referred to police for investigation on behalf of a coroner, or to an independent body such as the Health and Safety Executive. - Daily Mail