A Hither Green mum is calling for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to start an inquiry into the impact of pollution on child asthma after her nine-year-old daughter died from an extreme attack.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah and her daughter Ella were living close to the busy south circular road when she suddenly developed severe asthma three months before her seventh birthday.

The attacks were sometimes so severe that Ella ended up in intensive care at Lewisham Hospital five times.

Ms Kissi-Debrah says her daughter was fighting fit most of the time and continued swimming, dancing and playing football – but on February 15, 2013, she was rushed to hospital, where she died following an asthma attack and a seizure.

She told News Shopper: “Her final attack didn’t seem worse than attacks she had had before when she went to hospital – it came as such a shock.

“At the inquest they said that airborne triggers played a role.

“Where we live there is evidence of the pollution, evidence linking it to asthma.”

An air quality report “buried” by former mayor Boris Johnson which was leaked last month showed that eight primary schools in nearby Greenwich borough were in areas with “illegal” levels of air pollution in 2010.

Haimo Primary School in Eltham was one of them, and is less than three miles from Ella’s home in Hither Green.

News Shopper:

Ella with her mother, who is fighting for a deeper investigation into what caused her death

The most affected school in Greenwich according to the report was Invicta Primary school, which had nitrogen dioxide levels of 46.61, breaking the EU limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

By 2015, the levels of nitrogen dioxide around all but one of the eight schools had dropped below the EU guidelines, with all of the primaries predicted to be under the limit by 2020.

Human rights lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, from the firm Hodge Jones & Allen, is working with Ms Kissi-Debrah to secure a second inquest and to push for an independent inquiry into the effect of pollution on Ella’s health.

She is looking into whether the government and the mayor of London are in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which protects the right to life.

She said: “Rosamund needs answers.

“The coroner’s court isn’t looking into this.

“We would say this is a breach of investigative duty under the human rights act and that they need to investigate immediately into the impact of pollution on Ella’s life with a view to putting in place steps to protect life - including for Rosamund’s other children.

“This is the step we are taking now.

“It is shocking that such a dangerous health impact is so overlooked and we would like to put that right so other families do not suffer.”

Ms Cockburn is also looking for other similar cases in the area where people have been affected by pollution and she wants to look into the Mayor of London’s plans for an ultra-low emissions zone in Lewisham.

She said: “We need to look into the effect on those living, working, or going to school in highly polluted areas – and what human rights people have to demand clean air.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: "I would like to extend my condolences to Ella's friends and family, whose death is truly tragic.

"I am determined to get to grips with air quality - something that has not been a high enough priority until now.

“I was elected with a mandate to tackle London’s dangerously polluted air and make sure that breathing clean air is a right, not a privilege.”

Ella’s mother says she’s not looking to scaremonger and that Ella’s case of asthma was exceptionally extreme.


She has spent the last few years pouring her energy into the Ella Roberta Family Foundation to raise funds for asthma treatment not provided by local authorities in south-east London.

But the revelations about pollution in the ‘Analysing Air Pollution Exposure in London’ last month and figures showing that almost 10,000 Londoners die every year because of polluted air have prompted her to go further and ask for a deeper investigation into Ella’s death.

She said: “I can’t sit here and boldly make a claim that pollution caused this.

“This is all suspicion, but someone needs to look into it.

“Ella used to have these horrendous attacks and we don’t know what caused it – I would like some answers.

“I remember her saying to people ‘see you tomorrow’ when she was leaving school the day before she died.

“And then the next day I had to go to the school and tell everyone what had happened.

“People don’t understand when your friend says ‘see you tomorrow’ one day and then they don’t come back.”