Teenager shared suicidal content online before jumping to his death from Tower Bridge

BEIRUT (Arabnews): A 13-year-old boy jumped to his death after watching and uploading online content about suicide during the COVID-19 lockdown, an inquest heard.

London Inner South Coroner’s Court was told that Zaheid Ali boarded a bus as normal to go to school on April 20, 2021, but got off early and jumped from Tower Bridge, the BBC reported. His body was recovered from the River Thames in East London eight days later. A suicide note was found inside his jacket that included lyrics from a song about a girl who killed herself.

The inquest heard he had been following on social media a person in the US who killed himself, posted a countdown to his own suicide on YouTube, and posted on Twitter messages about ending his life. He also exchanged WhatsApp messages with friends from school in which he said: “I hate life at the moment and kind of want to give up.”

Zaheid’s father, Mumen Ali, told the hearing that his son’s death “baffled” him because his behavior had not seemed unusual. He said the boy, who was born prematurely and suffered from internal malabsorption, a digestive disorder, had been “glued to his phone” and spent most of his time in his bedroom, especially over the Easter holiday weekend just days before he took his life.

His parents did not consider this out of the ordinary. The father told the court that they “put it down to his hormones changing from being a boy to being a man,” Metro newspaper reported.

He added that he was under the impression his son was worried about Islamophobia, following the attack by a gunman on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, in which 51 people were killed.

Zaheid was a Year 8 student at Ark Globe Academy in London’s Elephant and Castle area, whose vice-principal, Una Sookun, told the hearing that the 13-year-old was “academically very able” but “quiet” with a “very small friendship group.”

After enjoy his time in Year 7, Zaheid started to struggle the following year when the lockdown began, Sookun said, and stopped engaging with schoolwork. 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. In an email he sent to his teacher on Jan. 25, 2021, Zaheid wrote that he had struggled to wake up at 8 a.m., even though he had tried to.

Detective Constable Khadra Mallin of City of London Police told the inquest that officers were called after people heard someone in the Thames calling for help just after 8am on April 20, 2021. One person jumped into the water but could only find the boy’s jacket and bag. It was more than a week before the body was recovered.

A fellow pupil told police that Zaheid got on the bus to go to school at his normal stop in Canada Water on the first day back after the Easter holidays but got off before it reached the school.

Pathologist Dr. Simi George recorded a provisional cause of death as immersion. Assistant Coroner Dr. Julian Morris recorded a conclusion of suicide and offered his condolences to Zaheid’s family.