04:26PM, Friday 19 July 2019
A 17-year-old from Marlow who died when he was hit by a train had explained ‘what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it’, an inquest heard.
Joel Langford died at a level crossing between Marlow and Bourne End stations at 9.39am on Monday, March 18.
An inquest into the teenager’s death was held at Beaconsfield Coroners Court last Wednesday (July 18).
It began with senior coroner for Buckinghamshire, Crispin Butler, reading a 'vivid' account of Joel’s life and struggles as described by his mother.
In the statement Joel’s mum describes him as ‘a challenging child from a toddler upwards’ who had difficulty forming friendships and could be disruptive at primary school.
She said that later she and Joel’s dad ‘realised that certain children liked to push his buttons to get a reaction’.
In Key Stage Two, Joel was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and a year later with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
He was appointed an outreach worker and by the time he started at Great Marlow School ‘was finally given all the support he needed to thrive’.
However, the inquest heard how peers at school mocked him and the only other contact he had with young people his age was with the children of his parents’ friends.
During a family holiday he became obsessive about hygiene and hand washing and his parents ‘realised Joel had developed a significant issue’.
On January 22 Joel and his mum attended an assessment at Harlow House with Anoushka Bheekha, senior mental health practitioner at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
In Ms Bheekha’s statement she described how Joel tried to avoid ‘contamination’ – he would not sit on the sofa and instead sat on the floor and ‘refrained from touching any one else after a shower’.
He had also been found to sleep on the floor because he didn’t want to contaminate his bed.
Ms Bheekha also said that not being able to make new friends contributed to feelings of loneliness and confirmed Joel’s anxiety had manifested as OCD.
She said that they spoke of intrusive thoughts of death but she concluded that no immediate risk of self-harm or suicide were present at the time of the assessment.
By the time he started his GCSEs, the inquest heard, ‘he calmed down significantly and loved all his subjects’.
Although he was used to being ostracised by his peers, before he died ‘socially things were at an all time low for Joel’, his mum told the inquest, with many of his friends having moved school or abroad.
In her statement, she said her son had made his decision to take his own life on Friday evening after a bad day at school.
She also described him as ‘happy throughout his last weekend’ during which time he had a snowboarding lesson.
The evening before the Monday morning Joel text a friend and asked if he could speak to her at 8.25am. In the phone call ‘he did say he didn’t want to carry on living’, according to a statement by the friend’s father.
A statement read out on behalf of the train driver, Richard Woodley, said that as the crossing came into view he saw a teenager run from the left hand side.
He said: “Initially I thought he was going to run across the crossing which people do.”
However it soon became clear to him ‘this was a deliberate act’.
The coroner said ‘the greatest clarity was revealed by Joel himself’ in a five minute video which the teenager made on the morning of March 18.
At the end of the video Joel said ‘be happy for me, don’t be sad’.
The coroner said: “He explained to us what he wanted to do and how he was going to do it and the train driver’s statement corroborates that.”
He concluded that ‘there are a significant number of pieces of evidence which confirm Joel’s intentions’ and recorded a verdict of suicide.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, the Samaritans can offer 24-hour support to those struggling to cope or feeling emotional distress, call 116 123.
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