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Beckenham Junction station train death inquest hears girl looked up at driver
A TEENAGER who had been visiting self-harm websites was looking up at the driver as she was hit by a train and killed at Beckenham Junction station.
The inquest into the death of Rosie Whitaker at Croydon Coroner’s Court today heard she had been a sociable child with a lot of friends who was loved by her family.
She also did a variety of activities including swimming, diving, contemporary dance and ballet, and had danced at the Royal Albert Hall.
But during a period of stress while studying for 10 GCSEs at Langley Park School for Girls she developed an eating disorder and began self-harming.
And on the evening of June 11 she went to Beckenham Junction and lay down on the tracks as a train approached.
She was hit by the 9.22pm London Victoria to Ramsgate service and was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a statement read out by coroner Dr Roy Palmer, the train driver Andrew Pagram said he had been off sick since the incident and was receiving counselling.
His statement said visibility on the night was reduced as it was dark and there was a bend in the track as the train approached the platform.
Also the design of the driver’s cab meant the only clear view was through the front windscreen.
He said: "As I approached the platform I saw a shadow dropping down, with no idea what I had seen and with many occasions where it was a plastic bag or a discarded advertising poster I felt no need to brake and just kept a lookout for what it would be.
"The headlight suddenly picked up a girl lying across the rails, looking straight up at me.
"I put the safety brake straight to emergency but inevitably I ran straight over her.
“Since the incident I have frequently asked myself could things have been different?
"However, with a visibility of just 300 metres the train just would not have stopped either way.”
He added: “I have been particularly affected by how young the girl was and the image of her looking up at me.”
Eyewitness John Morgan was on the opposite platform when he saw Rosie go on to the tracks.
His statement said: “She started walking down towards the end of the platform and I noticed she had left her bag on the edge of the seat.
“She jumped backwards on to the track and I could see the fast approaching train and wondered if there was anything I could do.
“She was face up with her feet on the rails and this was definitely a deliberate act to put herself into the path of the train.
“Just prior to the train hitting her she screamed but only for a couple of seconds.”
In a statement read out by the coroner, her mother Vanja Whitaker said she had a “brief but nice” phone conversation with her daughter at around 8.50pm on the evening of Rosie’s death.
Mrs Whitaker, of Wickham Road, Beckenham, said: "She seemed fine but as teenagers do I felt she wanted to get the conversation over with as soon as possible.
"We left things that I loved her and we would talk the following day.
“This was the last time I would speak to Rosie."
In January Mrs Whitaker noticed her daughter had a cut on her wrist which she admitted she had done herself but said she would not cut herself again.
After Mrs Whitaker took Rosie to her GP at St James’s Practice, Croydon Road, Beckenham, she was referred to the Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, for treatment.
Mrs Whitaker said: “Maudsley picked up on the eating disorder but did not pick up on her cutting herself.
“The hospital felt Rosie would feel better if she got her eating sorted. It did not work.”
And the inquest heard the post-mortem examination carried out at the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, the day after her death found there were signs of self-harm and the word ‘fat’ was scratched on her abdomen.
Mrs Whitaker said she was concerned about the friendship Rosie had started with a particular girl at her school at the end of last year and had asked if the two of them could be kept apart.
She said in her daughter’s last few days she was fine and had been at a cousin’s wedding and spent some time staying at her grandmother’s house.
But since then Mrs Whitaker has found out her daughter had spent some time in a cemetery with a friend.
And on Rosie’s phone some text messages were found which had made her friends quite worried.
There was a note found in Rosie’s bag at the train station but it was not dated and, giving evidence at the inquest, PC Michael Breeze, from British Transport Police, said they had no idea when it could have been written.
Recording a verdict of suicide Dr Palmer said: "It is a very sad story indeed.
"Clearly there is evidence she wasn't eating as she should have and she was accessing websites that youngsters do, but I'm satisfied she intended to die through her own actions.”