‘Shining light’ five-year-old boy killed by his mother

A mother killed her young son and took her own life at Eastbourne cliffs, an inquest heard on Tuesday (May 7).

Wednesday, 8th May 2019, 10:18 am
Leo Tompsett

The bodies of Cheryl Tompsett, 42, and Leo Tompsett, five, were discovered at Beachy Head on Monday June 18, 2018.

The inquest into their deaths heard the mother, who had lost custody of Leo to the boy’s father, told him if she couldn’t have Leo, no one could.

In a moving statement read at the hearing in Muriel Matters House, Hastings, his father Mark Woodhams said, “I can’t begin to explain how this feels as a parent. I will never get over the loss I feel. Life will never be the same for any of us. We are heartbroken and devastated.

“Leo had his whole life ahead of him, an innocent child, loved and adored by his family.”

In a previous tribute to Leo, Mr Tompsett also described his son as a “shining light” and “our brightest star”.

GP Dr Hannah Reece-Jones said Ms Tompsett became depressed in 2004 and disclosed there had been considerable problems when she was growing up, the inquest heard.

Over the years the mother, a child bereavement counsellor from Maidstone, was prescribed antidepressants and psychotherapy.

But her partner Mark said he noticed a change in her behaviour when their son Leo was born. He became increasingly concerned by her mental health and “erratic behaviour”, his statement said.

Eventually after an argument police were called and Cheryl left the family home, moving in with a friend.

The inquest heard the parents went to court over custody of Leo and Cheryl was allowed to see him one day a week, with Mark looking after him the rest of the time.

Tragically after one of these visits on Sunday, June 17, Ms Tompsett never returned with Leo.

She had sent suicide notes to Mr Woodhams as well as her daughters from a previous relationship, the inquest heard.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze said of Mr Woodhams’ letter, “It was a message to say if she could not have Leo, nobody was going to.”

He said, “I’m in no doubt whatsoever, especially given the contents of the letter. Tragically she took her own life.

“This poor lady suffered seriously from mental ill health. All reason will have vanished from her in terms of what she was doing.”

He concluded she died by suicide, and said, “I’m left in no doubt about what happened to Leo.”

Leo was unlawfully killed, Mr Craze also concluded.

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.