Student killed himself by jumping in front of train

A UNIVERSITY student killed himself by walking in front of a train just months after being diagnosed with a form of autism, an inquest heard.

Annie Davidson

A UNIVERSITY student killed himself by walking in front of a train just months after being diagnosed with a form of autism, an inquest heard.

Richard Blackwood had been bullied since the age of six and found it hard to socialise but was only diagnosed with high functioning Asperger's Syndrome when he was 20.

He had been to two universities but decided to take a year out and return to his family home in Fisher Way, Braintree, shortly before his death.


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Yesterday, his mother said she hoped if a lesson could be learnt from her son's death it would be to identify autism early and give sufferers the right support.

Mr Blackwood, a keen Ipswich Town fan, died of multiple injuries after he stepped in front of a high-speed commuter train at Marks Tey railway station on May 21, 2008.

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An inquest jury heard at County Hall in Chelmsford yesterday that train driver David Oxley was driving the London Liverpool Street to Ipswich service and was doing 80 or 90mph.

“I was approximately halfway along the platform when this person jumped off the platform edge from the other side of the platform (to the train),” he told the hearing.

“He proceeded across to the track right in my path and crouched between the rails.”

The jury heard he had undergone counselling at the University of Gloucestershire between April and November 2007 and April 2008 but no further details were given. They recorded a verdict that Mr Blackwood had killed himself.

After the hearing, Denise and Brian Blackwood said their much-loved youngest son had prompted his own diagnosis after listening to a lecture during his psychology course.

He recognised the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome and spoke to the professor afterwards, telling him “I think you've just described me.” An assessment confirmed the condition in December 2007.

Mr Blackwood was a student at Honywood secondary school in Coggeshall and the Colchester Sixth Form College, later going to Hull University and the University of Gloucestershire.

Mrs Blackwood said: “He had dreadful bullying problems from the age of six and socialising problems.

“He was a perfectionist and always wanted to do better.”

Mr Blackwood had come home from university the day before he died and did not “seem himself” but his death came as a complete shock.

Mrs Blackwood, 53, said: “He had done his exams and didn't feel happy about it.

“He had been doing group studies and had difficulties working within a group.

“With him at home we were going to talk it through and go to the doctor the next day.”

She added: “If this says anything, it is for identifying autism earlier for people to be able to get the right help.”

Amanda Batten, spokeswoman for the National Autistic Society, said last night: “Following the inquest into the death of Richard Blackwood, a young man with Asperger syndrome, the thoughts and sympathies of everyone at the National Autistic Society go out to his family.

“It is sadly all too common for many people with autism not to receive a formal diagnosis until adulthood, and like Richard, to face years of bullying and misunderstanding, before the right support is put in place.

“If help is not forthcoming then this can have profound, or as in Richard's case, tragic consequences.

“It is vital that efforts are made to ensure that adults with autism are given the support they need, before they reach crisis point.”

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