A popular boy with a severe dairy allergy died after another pupil “threw cheese” at him at school, an inquest heard.
Karanbir Singh Cheema, known as Karan, suffered a serious allergic reaction to the cheese slice half the size of a post-it note at his school in Greenford, West London, just before midday on June 28, 2017.
The 13-year-old was severely allergic to wheat, gluten, all dairy products, eggs and nuts and he was also asthmatic and suffered from atopic eczema.
It was said one of Karan’s school mates who knew he had a dairy allergy, gave another boy the piece of cheese before he was overheard saying “Karan is allergic to cheese”.
The other boy then threw the cheese at Karan who went into anaphylactic shock at around 11.30am at William Perkin Church of England High School.
The two boys then aged 13 and now aged 15 who cannot be named gave evidence behind screens at the inquest at Poplar Coroners’ Court.
The boy who flicked the cheese at Karan apologised to his parents after giving evidence and said: “I didn’t mean any harm – I’m sorry , I’m sorry for what I did.” .
The boy who handed the cheese over claimed although he knew Karan had a dairy allergy, he didn’t know cheese was dairy.
He said he and Karan were aquaintances on “neutral” terms, adding: “I knew he was allergic to some things, dairy and pollen.
“At the time I didn’t know dairy was cheese – milk and yoghurt, I would say that was dairy.
“I knew he probably had more (allergies), but I was only informed of the other ones.”
Senior Coroner Mary Hassell asked: “At the time, what did you think having an allergy meant for Karan? What did you think would happen?”
The boy said: “I thought he would get a rash or have a fever or something similar to that – I didn’t know it was that serious.”
The inquest heard Karan told the boy about his allergy the first time they met two years before his tragic death.
He said: “When we were introduced, it was one of the first things he said to me.”
Speaking about the day Karan died, he said: “I was at school, it was break time at around 11 o clock and I got a ham and cheese baguette from the cafeteria.
“Then I was eating it outside the cafeteria.”
He confirmed the boy who threw the cheese was with him and said: “Then after I finished, I had nearly finished my baguette (the other boy) asked if he could have a piece of cheese – I had a small piece of cheese left.
“I gave him all the remaining cheese and then I went to my other friends, I didn’t see him after that during the break.”
Questioning the boy, Andrew Hogarth QC, representing Karan’s family, said another boy had overheard him making the comment about Karan’s allergy as he handed over the cheese.
Mr Hogarth said: “In an interview with police he said ‘yeah, I saw him, because he wasn’t going to eat it he emptied it out of the packet onto his hand.
“He said he heard you telling him that Karan was allergic to cheese – did you tell him that?”
The boy denied this saying “no” in response.
The inquest heard the boy who threw the cheese would thrown food at other pupils “daily” and had thrown a banana skin at someone earlier that day.
Giving evidence behind a screen the boy described his relationship with Karan as “casual” and he wasn’t in any of his classes.
He added he knew Karan was allergic to bread but was unaware of his dairy allergy.
He said: “From a past incident I knew that he was allergic to bread but that’s all I knew – someone was eating a sandwich next to him and he asked them to move.”
Asked by the coroner if he knew what reaction someone could get from an allergy he said: “I thought maybe he would get a fever or a rash and miss school for a while … I didn’t know it could lead to death.”
Describing the day Karan died, he said: “I went to get lunch at the first break, I was with my friend and I was pretty hungry – I asked him for a piece of food.
“I saw he had a small, little piece of cheese – as a joke he handed it to me because I knew it wouldn’t fill me up.”
Questioned by the coroner whether he asked for food or cheese, he said: “I can’t remember, food I think”.
He then said he “flicked” the cheese at Karan from about a foot away.
He said: “With that small amount I went and I threw it a Karan – I didn’t know he was allergic.
“He was pretty close to me, he was the first person I saw … he was facing away from me.
“I flicked it at him with the finger of my other hand.
“I think it landed on the left side of his neck.
“After that Karan just told me ‘I’m allergic to cheese – I apologised then after that.”
The coroner asked: “Why did you flick the cheese at him?”
He said: “I don’t know, if was usual behaviour in year 8” adding later “we would play games with whatever we had, that being food”.
The boy said he left then but was called to the principal’s office.
He said: “I went to the principal’s office, he said ‘what have you done? You know what you have done to Karan?’
“I was confused – they told me that Karan collapsed in the medical room and it was my fault.”
Mr Hogarth asked the boy if he had discussed his evidence with the other boy before coming the inquest because of similarities in what they had said.
The boy said they had “discussed what happened once or twice” but denied they had planned what to say.
Mr Hogarth also said there were differences in the statement the boy made at the time and what he said today at the inquest.
He said: “In your first statement you said ‘he offered me some cheese and he had a tiny bit I thought it would be funny if I used the cheese for something, I threw it at one boy and then at Karan.”
He also said in the statement he was feeling “hyper” at the time.
The boy later said he was “under pressure at the time” and what he said today was the truth.
Addressing the family at the end after being told by the coroner they were in the room he said: “I just want to say that I didn’t mean any harm – I’m sorry , I’m sorry for what I did.”
Paramedics were told over the phone that it was “just an allergic reaction” but when they arrived Karan was “gasping for air” and had broken out in hives.
The staff had already administered two spoons of piriton, an epipen and given him his inhaler but shortly after paramedics arrived Karan stopped breathing.
The first two paramedics began to perform CPR on the young boy, gave him adrenaline and used a defibrillator while they waited for back-up to arrive
Karan, described as “so bright he could have been anything he wanted”, was brought to Great Ormond Street Hospital but died ten days later on July 9 with his family by his side.
A statement from Karan’s mother Rina was read also read out about his allergies.
She said her son was “diligent” about his allergies and skin condition and was in good health the morning he died.
Mrs Cheema also said the school had a full report on all Karan’s conditions.
She was called by the school that day and asked if they could give Karan Periton because he had eaten something he was allergic to but was shortly after told to come straight to the school.
When she was arrived at the hospital she was told by a consulant that he was unlikely that skin contact with a food could cause someone to go into anaphylactic shock.
Mrs Cheema said: “The consultant didn’t think this was responsible- contact with the skin would not have caused this bad a reaction.
“In her 30 years in medicine she was confident that a child wouldn’t have an anaphylactic reaction with something going down his neck.”
The inquest expected to last three days continues.