Witness describes seeing footbridge tragedy unfold (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Zeba Begum spotted victim pacing up and down on bridge before she fell to her death in Chingford
A witness has described seeing a woman plunge to her death from a footbridge in an apparent suicide.
Zeba Begum watched from a window in her home in Greenham Crescent, Chingford, as the woman fell on to the North Circular between the Crooked Billet roundabout and Cooks Ferry Interchange at 2.30pm yesterday.
The dead woman, described as white, in her late teens and dressed in a blue tracksuit with a hooded body warmer, was first spotted pacing up and down on the footbridge minutes before tragedy struck.
Ms Begum, 26, said: “I thought it was a boy at first the way she was dressed. The person kept looking left to right while leaning over the bridge, it looked very suspicious.”
“Next thing I saw, she had climbed over the bridge and was sitting at the highest peak of the bridge with her legs dangling looking towards the oncoming traffic.
“All I was thinking in my head was get off, get off, this is not funny - what are you doing?
“Cars started beeping at her, and then she waved towards the traffic, looked left and then right and pushed herself off.”
Screaming and in shock, Ms Begum shouted to her mother, Saya, to call the emergency services.
She then gave the police her mobile number, threw on some shoes and dashed towards the scene just yards from her house.
“I was hoping and praying she would be OK but when I got to her it was awful.
"I don’t suspect she had collided with a car as her face and body was flat, with her arms and legs straight and there were no damaged vehicles in sight,” she said.
“I was probably the only person who saw her jump to her death. It was such a quick decision; I still don’t understand why someone so young would do such a thing.”
Moments after the incident, Ms Begum spoke with a passer-by who told her she had walked past the girl on the bridge and was given a hand gesture by her to keep on walking.
When the woman, with her husband and two young children, got to the bottom of the bridge, they said they heard the impact.
Shane Sheehy, manager of Fairways Driving Range in Southend Road, Chingford, had pulled onto the dual carriageway when he saw the woman on the bridge.
"She stopped several metres from the metal railing and then very casually climbed onto it.
"I knew straight away it was a girl from her mannerisms and body movements and I knew what she was about to do," said the 49 year-old.
Mr Sheehy took the exit just pass the bridge and pulled into the petrol station to find somoeone to alert but it was too late.
He added: "It was so emotional. By the time I got out of my car and looked back, the traffic had stopped and I knew that was it."
Ms Begum said she is haunted by the experience.
“All night I didn’t sleep, I feel haunted by her. All I see when I look out onto the bridge is her.
“I saw her alive and next minute she was dead. In some way, I feel responsible because I was stuck behind my bedroom wall,” she added.
“The bridge needs to be caged, patrolled and have CCTV installed.
“Kids act a bit stupid when they're up there, some chuck stones, there are strong winds and it is not the first time someone has jumped.
“I know people may think by having a caged bridge is it more of a crime hotspot but at the moment this bridge acts as an easy option for people in distress.”
Emergency services including an air ambulance were called to the scene at 14:27pm yesterday and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
The age and identity of the woman is still unknown and next of kin are yet to be informed.
Police say the incident is not being treated as suspicious and inquiries continue.
Flowers have been laid at the scene.
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