Family’s grief at ‘little farmer’ Harry Starrett’s unexplained sudden death

Harry Starrett from Armagh, who died last July.

Harry Starrett from Armagh, who died last July.


A father whose farm’s safety standards were given a glowing report at an Armagh inquest yesterday says that the finding will not undo the death of his six-year-old son.

Mark Starrett was speaking at the inquest into the death of his son Harry, who collapsed and died on the family Ballynahonemore Road farm on July 23 last year.

Initially slurry gas was suspected as the cause, but no trace was detected and no cause of death has been found.

Speaking after the inquest yesterday, Harry’s mother Alison said: “He was a lovely wee boy – a happy, fun-loving, caring wee boy.”

Harry, an eldest child with a brother and two sisters, had been in primary two.

“He was a very popular wee boy,” she added. “They were always commenting on how popular and caring he was.”

The family did not expect any cause of death to be declared yesterday.

“All along they were pointing to the heart. That is what they are now investigating for.

“With the CRY [Cardiac Risk in the Young] conditions it is undetectable. They can’t detect it in someone who has died.

“We have three other children, and they are all currently being examined.”

Asked about the fact that his farm was found to have model safety standards, Mr Starrett said: “It still doesn’t bring Harry back.”

On the day of Harry’s death his grandfather Robert Starrett had taken him to sell calves at the mart and then they had lunch and watched a DVD.

After that they checked cattle in the fields, arriving back after 4pm.

“Harry wanted something to do around the farm,” his grandfather said, adding that the boy then went into the milking parlour to do some minor jobs.

He was on his own no more than 10 minutes when his grandfather checked and found him on the floor.

Harry’s father rushed his son to his parents’ kitchen where they carried out CPR until the paramedic arrived.

He became too emotional to speak for a time yesterday.

“The two boys would come down with us all the time and would be in the milking parlour,” he said.

Asked by the coroner if they were just like “little farmers”, Mr Starrett replied: “Yes, that is right.”

Assistant state pathologist Dr James Lynas said yesterday that tests on Harry’s blood had limitations but did not find anything toxic. Despite extensive examination of Harry’s brain and heart the cause of death “remains obscure”.

“It remains possible there is something we have not been able to detect,” he added.

Cause of death ‘unascertained’

Coroner Jim Kitson yesterday offered the Starrett family his “heartfelt condolences” for the loss of their son Harry.

He added. “I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be sitting where you are now.”

The Health and Safety Executive found that “the family farm was a model of how to mix slurry” with the pit located outside and mixing done with doors open, he said.

However, he recorded the cause of death as “unascertained” because investigations had been inconclusive.

“Quite why he collapsed and died will likely always remains somewhat obscure,” he said.




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