Pensioner's M5 death plunge

PUBLISHED: 11:24 16 July 2007 | UPDATED: 11:17 24 May 2010

A CORONER has called for higher bridge barriers over motorways after a Cheddar pensioner jumped to her death. Michael Rose, coroner for

A CORONER has called for higher bridge barriers over motorways after a Cheddar pensioner jumped to her death. Michael Rose, coroner for West Somerset, said he will be writing to the Highways Agency to ask them to make the barriers impossible to climb over after holding the inquest of Joan Harrill. The 77-year-old Cheddar pensioner died on November 10 last year after using a stepladder to climb onto a bridge railing and jumped down onto the M5 near Rooksbridge. An inquest into Joan's death, held on Thursday, found that she died of multiple injuries. The family of Joan, who lived in Masons Way, has paid tribute to their relative. Her daughter Polly Blakeney-Edwards said: "Our mother was a very much-loved mother of five children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren."Mum was very caring and committed, especially with fund-raising and working with those less fortunate than her. She had suffered from severe depression over the last 10 years since losing dad. "She never recovered from the loss as they had been married for 50 years. The whole family is shocked, dismayed and saddened." The inquest heard how the family had become concerned she may be suffering from depression. Her son-in-law, Dr Piers Blakeney-Edwards, asked a nurse in Berrow to visit her in October. The nurse thought Joan was very anxious and had a poor appetite but did not think she would attempt to commit suicide. Joan said she thought she may have bi-polar disease as one of her daughters suffered from it, but medical staff found no evidence of the illness.Witnesses say they saw Joan's Nissan Micra parked on the Edingworth overbridge the night before her death but it had gone later. Coroner Michael Rose surmised that Joan must have driven to the bridge the night before her death, and then returned at around 6am on November 10. She fell on to the left lane of the northbound carriage and was hit shortly after her fall by a red Skoda and a lorry. The driver of the car, Burnham resident John Shepherd, thought the body was a small bundle of clothes or a sheep and could not swerve to avoid it, for risk of hitting a car in the other lane. Mr Rose added: "Neither of the drivers should feel guilty about the death and they should not leave this inquest feeling there was something more they could have done."If Mrs Harrill had jumped earlier there may have been a second death."Joan was living in Cheddar but in 1990 she and her husband moved abroad. Joan returned to Cheddar in 1999 after her husband died. She was born in Southampton and was schooled in Bristol before moving to the Cheddar area. Joan worked in an estate agents and was described at the inquest as hard-working. Mr Rose recorded the verdict that Joan had taken her own life and her mind was disturbed.

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