Coroner: Alison Davies Unlawfully Killed Son While Committing
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 15, 2006
STOCKPORT, ENGLAND--Ryan Davies trusted his mother, Alison, as she guided him past safety barriers and across the rails of a bridge before the two plunged to their deaths on April 12, a coroner's inquest heard Friday.
Coroner Geoffrey Saul concluded that Ms. Davies, 40, committed suicide by jumping off the Humber Bridge, and unlawfully killed Ryan, 12, by having him do the same. Ryan's body was found along the Humber River on April 16 and his mother's body was recovered on April 29.
The court heard from a pediatrician that Ryan had been diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that is generally associated with autism and learning disabilities and which made him "vulnerable and trusting".
A closed-circuit security camera reportedly showed images of two people jumping over the rail before plunging 150 feet to the water below.
Two truck drivers, who drove across the bridge just moments before the pair jumped, testified that they saw a woman holding a boy over the security barrier.
David Wilson said: "He put his right arm over the barrier and then his leg and the other person was trying to lift him. As I got alongside, the child looked straight at me. We had eye contact and there was no distress, no fear on his face at all."
Fellow driver Terrence Jewell testified that he thought the mother and son were "playing about".
"She was holding him over the river side of the barrier," Jewell said. "He drew his knees up to him."
After Alison and Ryan went missing, a family member found a suicide note from her in which she wrote that she had failed as a parent and did not want to be a burden on her family. The court also heard that Alison experienced major depression most of her life and had tried to kill herself on at least three earlier occasions, the first being when she was just 11 years of age.
According to The Telegraph, Alison had filed a complaint against local social services, claiming that Ryan was not receiving his full entitlement of respite care, but that an investigation later found her claim to be false.
Soon after the Davies' deaths, the Autism Awareness Campaign UK called for a government review of services the family received, along with starting a specific allowance for similar families to ease their financial burdens. The group also called for additional support for children with autism in schools, including specialized training for teachers and classroom assistants for autism units in mainstream schools.
"Troubled boy toppled over Humber Bridge, moments later his mother followed" (The Telegraph)
"Mother who leapt to death with son had tried to kill herself three times" (The Scotsman)
"Operator blunder in suicide call" (Yorkshire Post)