‘You deserve better’: Scout, 14, leapt from Manchester motorway bridge over fears girlfriend would dump him

By Glen Keogh

A boy of 14 leapt to his death from a motorway bridge after he mistakenly feared he was about to be dumped by his high school sweetheart.

Ben Fitchett left a message on his girlfriend’s mobile phone saying:  ‘Hi, I’m going to do it. Just so you know I do love you but you deserve better than me.”

Minutes later the teenager died after he fell into the path of traffic from a footbridge crossing the M62 motorway in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

An inquest was told Ben, a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award winner who lived in Rochdale, was a percussionist who played alongside his father in the Blackpool and Darwen brass band.

He attended Crompton House Church of England School and had just returned from a holiday to Switzerland with his scouts and explorer group where he had enjoyed mountain climbing.

But the hearing was told unbeknown to Ben his girlfriend of six months had accessed his Facebook account while he was away.

She noticed messages from Ben to another friend which described a previous relationship while at another scout camp.

The girl confronted Ben by phone call when he returned from Switzerland on August 18 last year  but he said he invented the ‘romance’ because he wanted the attention.

Despite her reassuring Ben that she believed him and the relationship would continue, he took his own life while on his way to his regular paper round.

At the inquest in Heywood, Greater Manchester yesterday Ben’s mother Sarah, 41, a nurse and father Peter, 51, a music teacher said there was no indication of the tragedy lying ahead.

Mrs Fitchett said: “We had no worries at all. He was up and out of bed as normal. I offered to give him a lift and he refused because it was a nice day and he said he would walk.

“At about 9.30am we thought something unusual was going on because we had sent him a text and he hadn’t replied. Our next intervention was to ring him – I made the call and the police answered it.

“I said ‘hi Ben, it’s me’ to which there was a question of ‘who’s that?’ I said it was mum.

”They said who they were and they had come into possession of his phone to which your head starts thinking overtime and you feel all sorts of things, I certainly didn’t think he wouldn’t be alive.

“I thought he may have lost his phone or been mugged but nothing beyond that. The police said they were coming and that made my mind go to overdrive.

“They told me the bad news, it was so out of his character. It was a very normal few hours that we had him back.”

She her son showed no signs of distress on his return from the trip.

“He did a lot of extra-curricular activities like the bronze Duke of Edinburgh award and he volunteered at the hospice shop.

”He had his paper round and he was saving up for a PS4 and tickets for a concert. By the end of August he decided to go away to camp in Switzerland with Explorers and he was very excited.

“He came back on August 18 at about 4.30pm and he practically skipped off the coach and across the road to meet us and he couldn’t wait to tell us about the time he had and the amazing food.

”He was all-round positive – there was nothing negative. He couldn’t wait until the next time he could go away with them again.

“He couldn’t wait to give us all of the gifts he had bought us. It seemed like our normal child was back as he was.”

PC Helen Hallworth, the investigating officer, scoured through Ben’s mobile phone and social media accounts to find a motive for the tragedy.

She said: “We spoke to his best friend who was in Switzerland with him and he had no concerns and they had a really good time together and he was happy.

“We then spoke to his girlfriend and she had received a voicemail from Ben. We are sure the voicemail was left just a few minutes before his incident.

“You can hear traffic in the background so we think he might be walking on the bridge or sitting on it.

“The voicemail said ‘hi, I’m going to do it. Just so you know I do love you but you deserve better than me.’

“He believes he has made a mistake and she deserves a lot better than him and she will find somebody else to live happy with and he doesn’t believe anybody deserves him.

“He tells her how much he loves her and says he’s on the way to the bridge and it’s the last time she will hear his voice.”

Ben had conversations with a number of friends on his mobile phone the previous evening, making plans for the future with some, but it was the conversation with his girlfriend which caused concern.

PC Hallworth added: “While he went away (the girl) had the password to his Facebook account. She had been on and read a conversation with somebody else and discovered that he had a relationship with somebody else.

“He said it was all made up and he hadn’t had a relationship and had made it up for attention. But at that point he was upset with himself for making such a lie up and he didn’t realise the effect it would have.

“He wanted to make sure she believed him and he was kicking himself for making it up in the first place.

“There are a lot of messages and it ended on a fairly light note where they weren’t breaking up so I would say (she) believed him and she didn’t want the relationship to end.

”They thrashed it out but she said they had to rebuild the trust.”

Scout leader Peter Joy, who had known Ben for more than ten years, said: “He seemed his normal self on the trip. There was no cause for concern any time I saw him. There was nothing you wouldn’t expect from someone of that age.”

Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Lisa Hashmi said: “Ben was quite clearly an intelligent, remarkable young man, loving and well-loved, with a caring and supportive family and by all accounts was active and full of life with plans for the future – a great son and a thoughtful lad.

“The family had no worries and nothing to make them think there was anything untoward. They knew he loved his girlfriend very much.

“People of this generation are much more self-conscious over image than children in previous generations.

“Given the threads of evidence I believe Ben had developed two distinct sides to his character.

”I can see no trigger but he may have been confused by emotions. I sense he felt the need for more attention and in seeking this did things entirely out of character.

”I strongly believe that the actions taken by Ben were a spur-of-the-moment decision taken only that morning – a spontaneous catastrophic act with very little prior planning.”

Story via Cavendish Press.

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