Thursday, June 05, 2003

Suicide Nets for Goalposts

Hackney council are to launch new anti-suicide measures on their tower blocks after it emerged that the "suicide nets", hung about 30 feet in the air to catch suicidal jumpers, were being used by kids in daredevil contests. Several tenants have reported children as young as seven flying past their windows and landing in the nets, some from as high as the nineteenth floor. One tenant described how one child liked it so much that he jumped four times in one hour. "He must be getting very fit," the tenant told us, "since the lifts aren't working."

All the children on the Hackney Green estate we spoke to denied being involved but several, after fleecing us of several items with small resale value, agreed that they had seen others taking part in the contests, which they described as 'stunting'. The best at 'stunting' were said to be two 9-year-old twins who not only have jumped from the highest point, but also perform various gymnastic feats, in the manner of competition divers. They also told us that at night kids throw lit fireworks down after their free-falling friends, in an attempt to knock them off course and away from the nets. Thankfully, no-one has succeeded, although one rocket did fly through an open window and set fire to the flat of a 86-year-old widow. Neither has anyone jumped from the roof of the block and the council have already installed a net at the nineteenth floor height to prevent that. Locals say, however, when the youth are not actually jumping into the nets they like to climb into them and smoke marijuana, hanging 190 feet in the air.

No-one has apparently been seriously injured yet, although the local hospital had reported a previously unexplained rise in whiplash amongst the estate's kids.

Our man on the underground writes meanwhile, the local underground station's management are quietly campaigning for the removal of all suicide prevention on the estate. They say that since the introduction of the nets suicides at their station have increased eight-fold. They point out, in private, that the cost of cleaning one body from the floor of a tower block is minimal compared to the cost of scraping it up from between electrified rails, not to mention the cost from the loss of train service and most especially in sick pay to distraught members of staff. The council have given them short shrift however, and informed them to consider setting up their own suicide nets.