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By This is Derbyshire
Posted: January 16, 2009
DERBY’S top cop has demanded a change in the law to help stop the kind of cruel heckling which contributed to the suicide of teenager Shaun Dykes.
As officers tried to coax the 17-year-old down from Derby’s Westfield car park, one member of the crowd below shouted that he was “wasting taxpayers’ money”.
Hecklers also shouted that he should “jump”, “get on with it” and “stop wasting time”.
Some callous onlookers even filmed him falling to his death with their mobile phones before putting videos on the internet.
At an inquest into his death yesterday, Deputy Coroner Louise Pinder said individuals in the crowd were “responsible, at least in part” for Shaun’s death.
Chief Superintendent Andy Hough, who is in charge of Derby’s policing, said he wanted a change in the law to help police to enforce cordons to stop potentially troublesome crowds from gathering.
Unlike in the case of a crime scene, officers are reliant on public support to put a cordon in place in situations where no crime has been committed, such as when Shaun was trying to commit suicide.
Ch Supt Hough said: “We want more power to enforce cordons.
“This would mean, for example, that if there was a car or person inside the cordon that we wanted moved, we would have the legal right to do so.”
Ch Supt Hough said having this legal power would have made it easier to move the crowd away from below the car park, making heckling more difficult.
He agreed with Miss Pinder that the onlookers’ shouts had contributed to Shaun’s death on September 27 last year.
An unsuccessful police investigation was launched to find the hecklers, involving the seizure of CCTV tapes and photographs taken by the media.
Ch Supt Hough said: “The city lost its humanity for a couple of hours that day.
“We are no longer actively looking but I would call on anyone who knows who the hecklers were to come forward.”
Ch Supt Hough said websites YouTube and Facebook had removed videos of Shaun’s tragic death as soon as they were informed about them.
Yesterday, Inspector Barry Thacker, one of two negotiators called in to coax Shaun down, said he felt they were close to success until one member of the crowd shouted abuse.
With tears in his eyes, Insp Thacker gave an account of the teenager’s last minutes, at about 5pm that afternoon.
Insp Thacker was standing 5ft away from Shaun who was perched on a pillar, which meant he towered over the negotiator.
He said: “I talked to him about his promising future with his good exam results and his job.
“He started to go quiet. We saw that as a positive thing because it meant he was considering what we were saying.”
Shaun continued to talk to the officers and reached towards Insp Thacker.
Insp Thacker said: “It was then that I heard clearly the words ‘you are wasting taxpayers’ money’.
“My colleague shouted ‘you’ve nearly come back to us, you’re not wasting police time’.
“He didn’t come down. I was convinced he was going to come back to us. Then he turned round and jumped.”
Shaun fell into London Road and was pronounced dead at Derbyshire Royal Infirmary at 5.45pm.
Insp Thacker said Shaun’s main worry was that he had recently been made homeless after leaving his boyfriend of one-and-a-half years, David Challands.
Shaun had been living with his boyfriend’s family.
Outside Derby Coroner’s Court after the inquest, Mr Challands, an 18-year-old student, of Avis Avenue, Heanor, said he wished the hecklers had been caught.
He said: “It makes me feel physically sick that people were doing this. It’s so selfish.”
Shaun suffered from depression and had taken two overdoses of painkillers in the two years before his death.
He was taking prescribed anti-depressants and had regular appointments with a clinical nurse specialist in child and adolescent mental health.
Shaun’s mother, Tina, said her son had eventually moved into his grandmother’s house next door to her home in Kilburn.
She told the inquest how she had made a desperate plea to Shaun by phone at 1pm that afternoon after finding letters written by him which seemed to suggest he would kill himself.
After calling the police, she managed to contact her son.
She said: “I said, come home, come back. I was asking him where he was. He said Derby. He wouldn’t tell me any more.”
Deputy Coroner Louise Pinder recorded a verdict of suicide.
She said: “I am quite sure that the police officers were taken by surprise by the despicable people taunting Shaun.
“The individuals were responsible, at least in part, for Shaun’s death.”