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Film-maker’s generous pledge to help the suicidal

PUBLISHED: 18:05 13 December 2010

A FILM-MAKER and self-appointed crusader for the underdog has offered to pay the full cost of fitting an emergency phone on Hornsey Lane Bridge.

Mark Guard has headed up several high profile causes, which include acting as a spokesman for a group of squatters who took over a £20million home in Belgravia last year.

Now he has turned his attentions to the plight of the suicidal and is attempting to stop people jumping off the 150ft high structure in Highgate known locally as ‘suicide bridge’.

The 46-year-old, who is currently making a documentary about muggers following Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s attack, says he will personally fund the installation of a free ‘SOS’ telephone which dials directly through to the Samaritans.

Mr Guard’s pledge comes shortly after three men plummeted to their deaths from the notorious site in as many weeks.

“As a Highgate resident I’m saddened that there were three deaths in one month and I’m just so frustrated that no-one is doing anything,” he said.

“So I had the idea of putting an emergency phone on the bridge so people might think twice before they jump.

“I even talked to a local church below the bridge and they said they are willing to man the phone for a certain amount of time.

“I don’t care what it costs – I’ll pay for the full costs.”

He added: “I know how it feels because I’ve been in that position myself. I was making a film in El Salvador and put a gun to my head.”

There is already an existing pay phone on the bridge with the Samaritans displayed, but campaigners have warned that people trying to kill themselves will be in no mood to be scrabbling around for change.

Mr Guard’s proposal follows another offer of a possible anti-suicide measure from a firm which builds crash nets for a construction site.

Stuart Dargue, manager of Tectonic Geotechnical Ltd, told local residents he could offer a solution in the form of a £95,000 safety net.

He said: “We have a product that could be installed underneath the bridge to break anyone’s fall that jumped off. It would also be low enough not to cause fatal injuries if they jumped off the net.”

A Haringey Council spokeswoman said: “Funding permitting, we are always willing to look at how we might help prevent suicides at the bridge.”

Manager of Central London Samaritans, Leanne Rivers, said: “We support the installation of safety nets or any other suicide prevention measures.

“Research has shown that – although costly – safety nets and physical barriers are an effective method to reduce deaths at locations where many suicides occur.

“However, we must remember that physical interventions should be used alongside emotional support.

“We strongly urge anyone in distress or feeling suicidal to contact us anytime day or night for support in complete confidence without judgement, by phone on 08457 90 90 90, email at jo@
samaritans.org or visit a Samaritans local branch. See www.samaritans.org for details.”


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