Lonely woman with ‘long-standing mental health problems’ falls from Eastbourne cliffs

Ray was taken to hospital after the incident
Ray was taken to hospital after the incident

A woman struggling with loneliness and ‘long-standing mental health problems’ died after she fell from Beachy Head.

Emma Childs-Taylor from Appledore Road in Brighton, asked a taxi driver to drop her off at the cliffs at 8am on January 7.

Ms Childs-Taylor’s sister, Ms Nicky Leaver, said in a statement, “I believe in the last months of her life there may have been lapses of communication.

“I know professionals working with her, cared about her. Her death is a tragedy and all of us need to understand what happened.”

The inquest heard the 50-year-old got in to a Streamline cab from the taxi rank in East Street, Brighton.

Taxi driver Kevin Fair said, “She asked how much would it cost to get to Birling Gap. I thought this was a strange request at that time in the morning.”

The taxi driver said they barely spoke for the entire journey and he saw Ms Childs-Taylor reject a number of telephone calls.

He said, “She requested I took her to Beachy Head instead of Birling Gap. Not wanting to pry, I continued driving. I decided not to question her about it.

“Throughout the journey she remained quiet. Her demeanour was normal, she didn’t look upset. I didn’t consider there to be anything unusual about her except the destination.”

The inquest heard police were searching for Ms Childs-Taylor after they received reports that a woman was in distress and claiming she was going to self harm.

PC Hayward of Sussex Police said, “Two officers attended her address in Brighton after a call from a distressed woman saying she was going to Beachy Head to take her own life.

“Police tried to get in touch with her but she rejected the calls.”

PC Hayward told the inquest officers rushed to Ms Childs-Taylor’s home but there was no answer and they decided to force entry at 8.42am.

Coastguards found her belongings at the top of the cliff at 9.30am and later recovered her body.

The inquest heard Ms Childs-Taylor had worries about housing and struggled being at home alone after leaving hospital in October 2018.

Keith Nouquet, a close friend of Ms Childs-Taylor, said, “She was concerned and disappointed following a meeting with the council and her mental health worker regarding housing. She also received upsetting messages from previous boyfriends.”

Joanne Hill, senior occupational therapist at East Brighton Community Mental Health Centre, said she went to her house on November 30 after she missed her appointment.

“The general theme of my appointment with her was about accommodation,” she said, “She had feelings of loneliness due to accommodation.

“I arranged with the housing officer to meet her. To see if she was eligible for a housing scheme. I thought she had started to improve. She was making future plans.”

Ms Hill told the inquest Ms Childs-Taylor did mention Beachy Head two days before she was discharged but it was the ‘only time it came up’.

Ms Childs-Taylor’s long-term GP, Dr Fiona Rumboll, said in a statement, “At the time of her death she had a number of significant long standing mental health problems which affected her from at least the age of 15.”

Dr Rumboll’s statement also said Ms Childs-Taylor ‘found living on her own very hard’, she was ‘reliant on a new boyfriend’ and had a ‘history of self harm’.

The GP also said Ms Childs-Taylor was urgently referred to specialist mental health services.

Dr Sobhi Yagoub, a consultant psychiatrist, diagnosed her with a personality disorder and said he was unable to help her with ‘the housing issue’.

A post-mortem exam found there were no drugs or alcohol in Ms Childs-Taylor’s system nor was there an excess of her prescribed anti-depression medication.

Coroner Alan Craze said, “This death could have happened a number of times in the past and could have happened any day.”

The coroner concluded Ms Childs-Taylor took her own life.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.