Death at South Tyneside cliffs leads to renewed calls for help

Jean Costello
Jean Costello
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A South Tyneside mum says more needs to be done to support people suffering from issues of mental health.

Jean Costello has spoken out as the latest tragedy at clifftops at the weekend brought back memories of the day she lost her own son, Stephen Heslop.

Emergency services at Marsden Grotto in South Shields, where a man died after falling from cliffs. Pic: North East Ambulance Service.

Emergency services at Marsden Grotto in South Shields, where a man died after falling from cliffs. Pic: North East Ambulance Service.

The 22-year-old drove to his death on Boxing Day 2007, less than 24 hours after being turned away from mental health services.

At the weekend, emergency services were scrambled to cliff tops after reports of a man having gone over the cliff at Marsden.

An investigation has now been launched by South Tyneside and Gateshead coroner Terence Carney.

He has been identified as Stephen Laybourne, 63, from Pembrooke Court in Sunderland.

A post-mortem examination has been carried out. However, the cause of death is not yet known.

Police have confirmed there was no third party involvement.

Ms Costello said: “Every time I am told another person has lost their life at the cliffs it just makes my blood run cold and brings everything back.

“No one knows the circumstances, but I would hate to think it was someone who was desperate for help but was unable to access it.

“I really don’t know what can be done to make the clifftops safer, but I do believe there needs to be more services and support out there for people who need it.”

Ms Costello’s son Stephen drove off cliffs on Boxing Day in 2007 less than 24 hours after being turned away from mental health services despite him begging them for help. It later transpired an assessment carried out in her son was not in accordance with trust policy, which led to him being turned away.

Ms Costello received an apology from the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation mental health trust following a three-year battle.

Stephen had been suffering from depression for a number of years.

Emergency services were called to the cliff tops at 8am on Sunday.

The Sunderland Coastguard, the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and Tynemouth RNLI were all alerted to the incident.

The air ambulance was also called to the scene, but was turned back when it became clear it wasn’t needed.

A man was recovered from the sea and pronounced dead at the scene.

He was taken to South Shields beach, where an ambulance was waiting.