Inquest heard of tragic cliff death

THE Beachy Head chaplain and police officers successfully talked a suicidal man away from the cliff edge, but his legs gave way and he fell to his death.

Andrew Pettitt, of Battle Road in Hailsham, died on December 17, 2007 and an inquest into his death was heard at Eastbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday (December 16).

An upset Mr Pettitt, who was in a relationship with a married woman, phoned his mother Glenda from Beachy Head and said, 'She has dumped me again, I can't stand it anymore'.

Mrs Pettitt immediately phoned 999 and Mark Pettitt, Andrew's brother, rushed to the scene.

His blue and silver Mitsubishi truck was found in a lay-by and the 40-year-old was standing on the cliff edge crying and shaking.

PC Chris Ruff was one of the first people on the scene at around 9pm.

"The edge was jagged, crumbly and seemed to be more eroded than other parts of the cliff," he said.

"It was incredibly cold and there was a strong biting wind. I stood about five metres away from Andrew and we were both shivering with the cold."

PC Ruff started to talk to Mr Pettitt but he did not respond and stared out towards the horizon occasionally looking down to the foot of the cliff.

Pastor Ross Hardy, leader of Beachy Head Chaplaincy, also tried to reason with Mr Pettitt.

Mr Hardy told coroner Alan Craze he managed to talk Mr Pettitt away from the cliff edge during a suicide attempt in February 2007.

Mr Craze was also told Mr Pettitt had been prescribed anti-depressants in the past and it is thought his suicidal feelings started when his father John took his own life in March 2005.

Mark Pettitt also attempted to get his brother to move away from the edge and spoke to him from a distance saying, 'Bruv, just come over here and sit next to me.'

After 25 minutes of persuasion, Mr Pettitt turned 90 degrees to his right but then collapsed and disappeared over the cliff.

Mark started to run towards the edge and police officers held him to the ground as they feared there may be a second fatality.

PC Ruff said, "He turned and was facing towards me.

"I really felt we had made a breakthrough and I don't think he deliberately went over the cliff."

Mr Craze recorded a verdict of accidental death and said, "There is no doubt he went up to Beachy Head to take his life.

"However, I believe the people concerned were successful in getting him to come away from the edge but he slipped and he fell.

"I don't think anyone involved could have conceivably done anymore.

"I hope this will be the last in a long line of tragedies in the family."