Dan's story - the reason we set up the Foundation
Who is Dan?
Dan was the younger son of Fiona and Tim Spargo-Mabbs, living with them and his older brother Jacob in Croydon, South London. He was in Year 12 of Archbishop Tenison CE High School in Croydon, which he’d attended since Year 7. Dan was bright, articulate, funny, chatty, popular and talented; a big, engaging, much loved character as illustrated by him being voted Prom King at the end of year 11 by an overwhelming majority. He was embedded in his school community – playing in the band for the school show just before Christmas in year 12 – as well as his local and church communities, running errands for the elderly people to whom he delivered on his daily paper round, and involved in youth work at the church he attended with his family. He had a real social conscience, having recently signed up to the bone marrow donor register and becoming a member of Amnesty International.
What happened to Dan?
On the evening of Friday 17th January 2014, Dan persuaded his mum to let him go to a party with a group of friends. However, instead of going to a party, Dan and his friends went to an illegal rave in Hillingdon, the first time he’d been to such an event. At the rave Dan took MDMA (ecstasy), along with four of his group. He had no way of knowing that there was a lethal amount of MDMA in the bag he had, which was twelve times stronger than had caused deaths in the past. The other four boys were fine, but whichever of them had had that bag would almost certainly also have died. It just happened to be Dan.
As a result of taking MDMA, Dan’s body temperature soared to 42⁰C and above. At this temperature, the body’s organs can’t cope and they shut down. For a couple of hours his friends couldn’t find him, and when they did he was propped up outside the building in the rain with paramedics. Dan was rushed to A&E at 04:30 on Saturday 18th January.
When we found out
At 05:30, the police knocked on Fiona and Tim’s front door and gave them the shocking news that Dan was unconscious in intensive care and fighting for his life. Because his legs were swelling, he needed an operation to cut them open to relieve the pressure, or they would have had to have been amputated. He was on life support, his body unable to cope with the effects of the drug. During 18th January, Dan was transferred to King’s College Hospital Liver Unit, one of the most specialised units in Europe. There, machines did the work of his heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and circulatory system. The staff did everything they could to save Dan’s life, but at 12:50 on Monday 20th January, Dan died, surrounded by his family.
What we realised
Dan was just 16 years old when he died. He was one of the very last people anyone would have expected to come to harm from drugs and Tim, Fiona and Jacob felt if this could happen to someone like Dan, it could happen to anyone. Dan’s death is a tragedy that needn’t have happened and so the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation exists to make sure no harm happens to another young person through drugs or alcohol, and that all other young people get to go home safely.
Dan's headteacher Richard Parrish said:
“What has happened to Daniel is not normal. It is not normal that a bright, articulate, talented 16-year-old should be taken from us in this way. It is not normal that his school and, above all, his family should be grieving today for his loss to us. It is not normal that his year group and his friends should have to learn so soon in life how short that life can be.”
Tributes to Dan
A tribute to our Dan, 11 February 2014
Written by Tim, Fiona and Jacob Spargo-Mabbs and issued by the Metropolitan Police press bureau on the day of his funeral.
Tribute to Dan Spargo-Mabbs, 27 January 2014
A tribute to Dan written by his headteacher, Richard Parrish, a week after he died.
Background statement for inquest of Daniel Spargo-Mabbs, 12 February 2015
Fiona and Tim were invited to write a background statement for the coroner, Ms Ormond-Walshe, of which this is an extract, in order to provide her with information about the boy, their son, whose death she was charged with investigating.