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Grieving family’s renewed pleas for Archway Bridge safety net

PUBLISHED: 19:38 29 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 29 September 2011

Campaigners Sue Hessel (left) and Sarah Cope by floral tributes left at Archway Bridge after the deaths last year

Campaigners Sue Hessel (left) and Sarah Cope by floral tributes left at Archway Bridge after the deaths last year

Archant

The father of a woman left bereaved when her long term partner died jumping from Archway Bridge has called on Haringey Council to look again at proposals for a safety net.

Speaking after the inquest of David Bennett, who plunged to his death from the 60ft bridge last October, William Paul Murphy said the local authority should reconsider its decision not to install the pioneering safety device.

The crash net would hang beneath the structure, which spans Archway Road in Highgate, preventing people from falling to the busy road below.

Mr Murphy, whose daughter Sinead was in a relationship with Mr Bennett for 12 years, said: “If the council showed willing I would be more reassured.

“The very fact that it seems to be blowing things off suggests the council isn’t really interested.

“The council has been taking into consideration the demand of English Heritage, who are worried about the design. But peoples’ safety must trump these concerns.

“More people could take their lives at this spot.”

Mr Bennett was one of three men who plunged to their deaths from the 60ft structure in less than a month last year, sparking a community outcry.

Campaigners have demanded a safety net and SOS phone box with a free direct line to the Samaritans be installed at the bridge.

They also claim the council has broken a promise to meet with them to discuss these proposals.

Haringey Council has ruled out installing the crash net, which would cost £95,000.

Despite the authority’s reticence, 600 residents have signed a petition calling for it to be put up.

Campaigner Sarah Cope said: “Places get a reputation for being an iconic suicide spot.

“If you remove the ability of someone to take their life at this place, then it does actually lower suicides.

“It draws people to it who are depressed, and you are going to see more and more people being depressed as mental health services get cut, as they are being dramatically.”

Sue Hessel, a campaigner and counsellor, said: “The bridge was strewn with flowers. We thought we cannot just leave it for the flowers to whither and for nothing more to happen.

“By installing the net you are sending a very strong message, we are saying we can hold that person and support them. That must be the first priority of any local authority.”

A Haringey spokeswoman said a series of meetings were held in February with the Mental Health Trust and other bodies to discuss if a net, or other safety measures, would stop people taking their lives at the bridge.

But it was decided a net would not work.

She added: “The council has previously increased the height of the fencing on the bridge which is now higher than a standard motorway crossing.

“Spikes are also in place on the bridge to deter and prevent people climbing up onto it.

“We have also worked closely with the Samaritans and have put signs at either end of the bridge advertising a telephone number to use to speak with the charity. This is in addition to the sign within the BT kiosk at the western end of the bridge.

“We will continue to work with mental health specialists to see if any further measures might provide a feasible deterrent.

“However, one thing all experts agree on is that continued publicity which identifies a location as a place to take your own life escalates the risk of that site being used again.”

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