“The last text I got from him said I love you” - mum's heartbreak after finding teenage son dead at home

A heart-broken mum has been left devastated after finding her beloved 16-year-old son Thomas Brookes dead at their home in Grangetown.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 06:00 am
Updated Friday, 11th October 2019, 15:20 pm
Thomas Brookes and with mum Helen Wardropper (left) and aunt Cheryl Coggins

Thomas Brookes died suddenly at the home he shared with mum Helen Wardropper in Westheath Avenue, Grangetown, on Saturday, September 28.

The devastated mum tried desperately to save her boy after finding him lifeless at home, but was unable to.

“I just found him. I tried to resuscitate him but failed,” Helen said.

Thomas dressed up as a lion in a photograph which featured in the Sunderland Echo along with his letter to Santa in which he wrote: “I take the plates in for my mam after tea and I got wrong for stapling a banana. If you visit my house you can use the toilet, and I will leave you some milk and gingerbread men to eat. Help yourself to the airbed if you get tired.”

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“The ambulance came but he had already gone. There was nothing I could do.

Now Helen says she has been amazed by the reaction from 16-year-old Thomas’ friends and has been to two of three balloon releases organised in his memory following his unexplained death.

Thomas had suffered from mental health issues for several years and Helen has been taken aback by the number of people who have come forward to say he had helped them with their own struggles.

“He was like a mix between Del Boy and Dennis the Menace. He always liked a joke, he always liked a laugh. He always liked to wind you up,” she said.

“He had me wrapped around his little finger, he really did. I would not have changed his personality for anything.

“What has got me through is the overwhelming number of messages of support I have had from people about the positive difference he had made to their lives.

“The last text I got from him was ‘I love you’.”

The former Hill View Infants and Juniors and Southmoor Academy pupil had been looking forward to a new chapter in his life when he sadly died at home.

Helen said: “He started college, but decided that it was not for him. He had an interview lined up three days after he died for an apprenticeship at Ryhope Post Office.

“He was over the moon because he had put the application form in himself.”

Thomas had loved going to the Stadium of Light with dad David when he was younger and later got a Saturday job at the ground.

Helen said: “He loved it because he used to get the left-over chicken balti pies at the end of the day.

“He loved serving people but he did not like the fact he was not on CEO wages.”

Northumbria Police says Thomas’ death is not being treated as suspicious and the family now faces an agonising wait to find out how and why he died.

Helen said her son had a number of health issues before he died.

She said: “He had had mental health issues for probably the last three years. He also had a really bad sleep disorder and he had been tested for epilepsy, and that was ongoing.

“It is very difficult as a parent. There is still a stigma around mental health. People are frightened of talking about it.

“If Thomas’ injuries were physical, he would probably have had a hospital appointment, but because they weren’t, he didn’t.”

Thomas’ aunts Michelle Wardropper and Cheryl Coggins also shared their memories of their beloved nephew: “He was always polite, he was always well-mannered, he always wanted to help,” said Michelle, while Cheryl added: “He was stock-piling Malteser buttons for me – I loved them and he loved them. He brought a pocketful through for me once. I live in Houghton and when I went to eat them, they had all melted.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell him.”

*A funeral service for Thomas will be held at Sunderland Crematorium at 10.30am on Tuesday, October 15.

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