dimarts, 2 de juny del 2009

Una molt trista història (del Guardian)

A grieving couple plunged to their deaths at Beachy Head clutching a rucksack containing the body of their five-year-old boy after he died of meningitis, it emerged today.

Neil and Kazumi Puttick drove to the beauty spot in East Sussex a day or two after their son Samuel died at home in Wiltshire. They are thought to have leapt together with two rucksacks, one holding the body, the other filled with some of the child's favourite cuddly toys and a model tractor.

Samuel, who was left paralysed by a car accident four years ago, was taken ill on Tuesday last week. On Friday he was sent home from hospital in Bristol when it became clear that he was not going to live. He was certified dead at his home on Friday evening. At the weekend his parents drove in their people carrier 140 miles to Beachy Head.

Their bodies were spotted at the foot of the cliffs on Sunday evening and were recovered on Monday. The people carrier was found parked nearby, a half-eaten banana and family-sized bag of peanuts left on the front seat.

Police officers were searching the couple's home but Detective Inspector Ian Williams, of Sussex police, said: "As a result of our investigation I am satisfied that Samuel's grieving parents Neil and Kazumi appear to have taken their own lives. This is a tragic incident and we extend our sympathies to their family and to the large number of friends and carers affected."

A spokesman for the Bath and North East Somerset NHS said Samuel had been receiving treatment for pneumococcal meningitis at the paediatric intensive children's unit at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

"When it became clear that Sam had no hope of recovery from his severe infection, he was discharged to his family home on Friday 29 May at his parents' request to die peacefully. He was certified dead at his home by a doctor at approximately 8pm that evening," he said.

Friends and neighbours described the Putticks as devoted parents who had moved into a large farmhouse, Wishing Well Farm, in the village of Brokerswood near Westbury, so that Samuel could be given the care he needed.

He was badly hurt in a car crash in 2005 and needed a ventilator to breathe. His parents gave up their jobs to look after him full time. A charity was set up to help pay for his medical bills and major work was carried out at the farmhouse to give him the facilities he needed.

Friend Sue Capon, who runs nearby Brokerswood Country Park, said: "To see what they have gone through was awful and I can only assume losing Sam was too much for them. They were a very, very close family and they were 100% dedicated to Sam. He was adorable and always had a smile on his face." She said he loved nothing more than visiting the park and enjoying a plate of chocolate cake.

Capon said the Putticks had recently been on holiday to Mrs Puttick's native Japan with an "army" of carers and luggage.

She said: "I last saw them last week. I did think something was strange this weekend, the vehicle wasn't there and I hadn't been asked to look after the house. Their life was Sam and without him their life did not mean anything to them. They were devoted to one another as well as to their child and it's just such a sad ending."

Another neighbour, Sue Hawkins, said Sam was "lively" and "interested" and would visit her lambs. She said: "Sam used to come up and visit in his wheelchair. He would visit our orphaned lambs and he used to name them, bless him. I thought he was looking worse than usual lately.

"He was starting to struggle to speak more and had tubes and would struggle to eat and drink. This is so awful, they were such a sweet family."

Samuel's former headteacher, Mary Murray, of Westbury Leigh primary school, said: "Sam joined us last September and it has been a real privilege to have him with us. He was a determined and happy little boy. The whole school community will miss Sam's cheeky smile."

The bodies of Mr Puttick, 34, and his wife, 44, were spotted about 400ft down the cliff just before 8pm on Sunday. Police were alerted, but it was decided it would be safer to wait and carry out the recovery on Monday. An Eastbourne coastguard station officer, Stuart McNab, said he found the child's body in a rucksack along with a second rucksack filled with soft toys and a toy tractor. Postmortems were to be carried out on all three bodies at Eastbourne district general hospital.

Samuel's parents described him as "the happiest boy in the world" on a website set up to raise funds for the boy's treatment months before his death.