CAROLYN CHURCHILL and MATTHEW MOORE He was the first inspiration for the boy who never grew up. The night before JM Barrie's brother David was to celebrate his 14th birthday, he went skating, was accidentally knocked down by a friend and fractured his skull on the ice.

The death of his older brother, the apple of his mother's eye, left a huge scar on six-year-old Jamie and he spent years worshipping David's memory and trying to comfort his mother and gain her affection, even once entering her darkened bedroom dressed up in his brother's clothes.

Now a new biography of JM Barrie and his relationship with the du Maurier family suggests that the author was not only there on the night of the tragedy, but was, in fact, the "friend" who caused the death of his brother.

Piers Dudgeon, writing in his book Captivated, says the theory could explain why JM Barrie went on to create Neverland and the story of Peter Pan.

"I was looking all the time for motivation," he said. "I found that in Barrie's childhood he had had this rejection from his mother due to the death of David. Everything seemed to come back to that skating accident.

"It is speculative. But it does add to the emotional picture of Barrie.

"A terrible guilt, associated with an accident in which your brother died, is something you would carry with you for the rest of your life.

"It would, perhaps, cut deep enough to unsettle someone."

The book, which is published later this month, adds another dimension to the cult of Barrie.

Rumours have always persisted about the nature of his close relationship with young children, but the biography considers a different "dark" side of Barrie, namely his fascination with hypnotism and the ability to use his mind to control others.

Dudgeon reveals the ways in which Barrie was influenced by George du Maurier, a practised hypnotist who wrote Trilby, the story of the artist's model who was transformed under the spell of Svengali.

Du Maurier was the grandfather of Daphne du Maurier, who wrote Rebecca, and also the father of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, whose sons are thought to have been the inspiration for Neverland's "lost boys".

The standard version of events accepted by most biographers is that David was a boarder at Bothwell Academy, a private school run by his brother, Alick, when he went out skating on January 28, 1867. He was knocked over by his friend, another boy.

Alick sent a telegram to Barrie's parents, in Kirriemuir, Angus, and they set out to make the journey to Bothwell but by the time they had arrived at the train station, in the early hours of the morning of January 29, David had died.

In Captivated, Dudgeon says that evidence from David's death certificate "tells a different story". According to records, he did die at 2am on January 29, 1867, but the doctor who signed the certificate also noted that David had been suffering from inflammation of the brain for one week before his death.

The death was not reported by Alick, but by another man, who is recorded on the certificate as "guardian and occupant of the house in which death occurred (present)". Dudgeon believes that the death certificate may reveal that Alick was not at Bothwell Academy when his brother died.

Another author, Hans Kuyper, from Holland, had also been investigating the possibility that JM Barrie may have been involved in the death of his brother. He discovered two newspaper reports of David's death, one of which stated that David died in Rothesay, and not Bothwell.

In his book, Dudgeon has put forward a theory that JM Barrie had travelled from Kirriemuir to go, with his brothers David and Alick, skating in Rothesay as part of the celebrations for David's birthday. There, he suggests, JM Barrie caused the fatal accident while the brothers were out skating.

After the accident, the biographer claims that David could have gone back to Bothwell Academy while Alick could have travelled home to Kirriemuir with Jamie.

When they received a telegram saying that David was ill, Alick and his mother began the journey to Bothwell, but they received a telegram telling of David's death when they were at the station waiting for the train.

In the book, Dudgeon says the explanation would "fit in" with the report that David died after suffering inflammation of the brain for one week and "it would explain Alick's absence from Bothwell on the day of David's death".

Yesterday, Dudgeon said: "The other thing that struck me is if you read a lot of Barrie you notice when he's talking about his brother that he is being very certain about everything, about things that he didn't know about. That is very unlike him.

"It threw up questions in my own mind. How could he remember everything that he described about that period of time? It seemed like he was trying to paint a picture, almost a fictional picture that would appeal to us rather than a picture of the truth."

Dudgeon admitted it was a "controversial" theory, but added: "It's controversial speculation with a purpose."