SURREY, ENGLAND // The death of a popular teenager who plunged more than 30 metres from the 11th floor of a residential building in Dubai after a party will remain a mystery, a British coroner said on Wednesday.
Harry Harling, 15, died from multiple injuries after falling out of a window of the building after a drunken row with a friend. The coroner said the “paucity” of evidence of Harling’s final moments meant it was impossible to know how the schoolboy had come to fall to his death.
The teenager, originally from Woking, Surrey, had moved to the UAE with his family about three years before his death. The sports-mad boy had played football, rugby and mixed martial arts, and was academically bright and popular at school.
But the Year 11 pupil’s body was found on the ground outside a friend’s apartment block the morning after a party where friends recalled him brawling with a friend and crying.
The Dubai Police investigation originally treated the March 2012 death as suicide, before reclassifying it as an accidental death.
Surrey coroner Richard Travers said that authorities in Dubai had provided little evidence to help his investigation.
Harling’s former girlfriend, Molly O’Sullivan, told the hearing in Woking that he had broken off their three-month relationship on the day of the ill-fated party. She said they had met through mutual friends and started dating in December 2011. “He was lovely and funny,” she said.
“He had exactly the same sense of humour – whenever I was around him he always made me laugh.”
The court heard that Harling had broken up with her in a text message just hours before he fell to his death. That evening he had been drinking at his parent’s house in Dubai Marina with three other boys, before they headed out to another friend’s party in Motor City.
His mother, Beverley Harling, told the hearing she knew her son liked “his lagers or ciders” and he was allowed to drink at home or at his friends’ houses.
She allowed him to sleep over at his friend’s when he called her at 9pm but thought he was avoiding going to a barbecue with her after his phone was not answered the next day. When police told her that her son was dead she said “it didn’t feel real. I just didn’t believe them.” Miss O’Sullivan said Harling used to drink heavily on occasion but no more than his peers and he “seemed happy”, continuing to “joke around” when drunk.
Harry Francis, who had hosted the party at his mother’s apartment in New Bridge Hills, said there had been a disagreement between Harling and another friend, Harry Radcliff, over a prank involving a friend’s T-shirt. After it calmed down, he said: “I saw Harry sitting by himself by the lift. He was teary-eyed. I asked him if he needed money for a taxi and he told me to f*** off. That was the last time I saw him.”
Other partygoers said they had also seen Harling being “emotional” and “upset”.
His body was found at 9.30am the next day, sprawled on grass in a courtyard at the bottom of the building by a passing security guard. Tharkabthovar Ram Ram noticed an open window on the 11th floor of the building, which had been “ripped out” on to its hinges, leaving a large enough gap for a person to fit through.
Mr Francis said that the windows in the corridors of the three adjoining buildings that made up the New Bridge Hills complex were never locked and it would be possible to “clamber out” if they were open.
Post-mortem examinations carried out in the UAE and UK showed Harling had died from multiple injuries, including a fractured spinal cord, consistent with a fall from a great height. British pathologist Dr Robert Chapman could find no evidence that Harry had been assaulted before the fall, but a forensic scientist said she could not rule it out because of the nature of his injuries.
Close friend Thomas Harding cleared up the mystery of Harling’s final tweet posted on the night of his death. Before his death, he tweeted “F*** the system”, raising suspicions that he had been suicidal. But Mr Harding, who met Harry through the Dubai Exiles rugby team, said the tweet had been a reference to lyrics in a song the friends had been listening to in a taxi on the way to the party.
“I’m pretty sure he did that [tweet] in the taxi. I think it was a song that was playing,” Mr Harding said.
Mr Travers said: “The sad fact of the matter is that the general paucity of evidence means that we will never know how Harry fell. I conclude that the cause of Harry’s death was multiple injuries and I record an open conclusion.”