Boy, 13, jumped from Tower Bridge after posting about suicide during lockdown
A “very able” 13-year-old schoolboy killed himself after viewing and posting material about suicide online during lockdown, an inquest has heard.
Zaheid Ali jumped from Tower Bridge after getting off a bus early on the way to school on April 20 2021.
His body was pulled from the River Thames near a pub in Wapping, east London, eight days later.
Inner South London Coroners Court heard that his suicide note contained lyrics from a Japanese song which tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who kills herself.
He had also followed someone in the US who had taken their own life, posted a “countdown” to his suicide on YouTube, and written on Twitter about his desire to kill himself, the hearing was told.
A WhatsApp exchange with school friends from March 2021, which was found after he died, revealed he said “I hate life at the moment and kind of want to give up”, among other similar messages.
His father Mumen Ali told the hearing he was “baffled” by what had happened to his son – who was born prematurely and suffered from a digestive disorder called internal malabsorption – as his behaviour had appeared normal.
Mr Ali said his son had become “glued to his phone” and “stuck in his bedroom” in the Easter holidays before he killed himself, but his parents did not think his behaviour was unusual.
He added: “We put it down to his hormones changing from being a boy to being a man.”
His father also said he believed his son was worried about Islamophobia after a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 which killed 51 people.
Una Sookun, vice-principal of the Ark Globe Academy in Elephant and Castle, south London, where Zaheid was a Year 8 pupil, told the court he was “academically very able” but “quiet” with a “very small friendship group”.
He “appeared to enjoy studying” in Year 7 but when lockdown began, he started to struggle and did not engage as well with his schoolwork.
When schools closed again between January and March 2021, he was allowed to be one of a small group of pupils who could carry on attending classes in person but he did not go initially because of concerns about catching coronavirus on the bus.
In September 2020 a “small concern” was raised when he posted religious messages in a school chat forum.
Two months later, in a similar chat room, he “called for people to die” and said he should never have been born, which did “raise some concern” but was “nothing particularly out of the ordinary”, Ms Sookun told the inquest.
On January 25 2021 he emailed his tutor saying he was struggling to wake up at 8am even though he had tried to.
Ms Sookun said of the WhatsApp messages: “It has been a massive learning for many of the students about raising that alarm straight away.”
Detective Constable Khadra Mallin from City of London Police told the inquest that officers were called by worried members of the public who heard someone calling for help in the Thames just after 8am on April 20 2021.
One witness swam into the water in a bid to save him but only his school jacket and bag, which contained a suicide note, were found.
An “intensive” search by police on foot, helicopters and lifeboats began but his body was not found for eight days.
When police attended his school, a pupil said Zaheid had got on the number 118 bus at his normal stop in Canada Water but got off before arriving at the academy for the first day back after the Easter holidays.
A toxicology report by Dr Rebecca Andrews found no alcohol or drugs in his system and pathologist Dr Simi George recorded his provisional cause of death as immersion.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, assistant coroner Dr Julian Morris offered his “very sincere” and “deepest” condolences to the family.
He added: “The difficulty for all of us, and especially for you, is not being able perhaps to understand his personal and private thoughts and reasons as to why he did what he did.
“We may never know those reasons. That must, I understand, provide ongoing anxiety and frustration from your perspective.
“The age of 13 is too young for anybody.”
His father replied: “When he was born, I didn’t think he was going to survive.
“The 13 years that he gave us, thank God for that.”