Struggling Plymouth mum's tragic train death

Police close Turret Grove after a fatality on the railway
-Credit: (Image: Erin Black/PlymouthLive)

A much-loved Plymouth mum who developed issues with drugs and alcohol due to having had a 'very difficult' upbringing', tragically ended her life on a train track in the city. Barbie Woodman, 37, died near a railway bridge on April 7, 2022, at around 3.20pm, after intentionally running towards the train, an inquest heard.

A witness told in a statement how she had been walking near the railway line to collect her child from school when she was approached by Miss Woodman around 2pm.

She recalled: "She was crying and was carrying two shopping bags and an open bottle of Henry Weston cider. She said, 'excuse me, can you tell me the way to the railway line?"

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The witness said she asked if she was okay and if she needed help, but said Miss Woodman reassured her she just wanted to look at trains and when asked if she was a trainspotter she said she was. However, the witness said their brief interaction left her feeling uneasy so she went to look for her a few minutes later.

When she was unable to find her to said she rang 999 to report her concerns and that they were confirmed when she was on a bus going past the railway line afterwards.

She said: "As I sat down I looked railway line to see a passenger train coming out of the city and come to a sudden standstill. I immediately feared the woman I spoke to was involved."

In a statement made after the incident, the train driver told how after exiting a tunnel just minutes from Plymouth train station he saw a woman 'suddenly' emerge from undergrowth at the side of the tracks, no more than a carriageway length from the front of the train.

He recalled he immediately applied the emergency brake but was unable to stop as she ran 'head-on' towards the train.

He said: "I had no chance to sound the horn and there was no way the train was going to stop." He added: "I was in deep shock and I still am."

The cause of her death was multiple injuries, and mixed drug and alcohol use was also noted at the inquest held at Exeter Coroner’s Court today, June 6. The toxicology results detected alcohol at a recreational level, an elevated but not toxic level of methadone, and prescription drugs such as benzodiazepine.

Harbour Drug and Alcohol Service in Plymouth confirmed Miss Woodman, who was born in Plymouth, was well-known to the service due to a long history of struggles with drugs and alcohol. She was prescribed methadone daily and was last seen by the service on March 31, 2022.

At that time she reported continuing to drink a large quantity of cider on a daily basis and illicit substance misuse of benzodiazepine and Xanax.

A worker at the service said in a statement: "She appeared to be extremely anxious about some personal matters occurring in life at that time."

In a statement, her daughter Jasmine said Miss Woodman was a 'much-loved mum' who had tried to overcome addiction and mental health problems.

She said: "She had a very, very difficult upbringing that had caused her to have lifelong struggles with drugs and alcohol and also left her having difficulties with fractured relationships and trauma in her life generally."

Jasmine also recalled when under the influence of drugs she would be in a low mood and would frequently say she was going to end her life. She told how her mum had previously slept in a homeless shelter and occasionally slept on the streets until moving into sheltered accommodation at a hostel in Winston Avenue on March 1.

She added she was unaware of any particular issues her mum had on the day of her death but said she had a text and missed phone call from her at around 2.15pm that day. The message, which she did not see until later, stated how she loved her and hoped she could forgive her.

Recording a conclusion of suicide, assistant coroner Deborah Archer said she did not believe that the alcohol and drugs Miss Woodman had consumed before her death impaired her decision-making due to her level of tolerance.

Ms Archer said: "The actions of texting her daughter shortly before walking out in front of the train are clear indicators that she took her life."

She concluded: "She took her own life and intended to do so."