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Widow's train death tragedy
A WIDOW struggling to cope with her son’s care looked a train driver in the eyes as she stood calmly in front of the train that killed her.
Anne Duffield, aged 62, died of multiple injuries after she was hit by a train travelling at around 100mph at a pedestrian crossing at Trench Lane, Dunhampstead, near Droitwich, an inquest in Stourport heard yesterday.
The spot was near where the ashes of her late husband David had been scattered 15 years before and Mrs Duffield had made frequent visits in the past.
Train driver Brian Kelly said he was only three seconds away when he saw her standing on the track at around 8.35am on March 1, raising her fist close to her head as though to brace herself for the impact.
He said: “I knew it was going to happen but I just shouted out in terror. She looked straight at me. She was so calm, no surprise, no panic on her face.”
Mr Kelly said now he suffered nightmares but added: “I don’t have any bad feelings towards the lady. I just feel sorry for her.”
The court heard how Mrs Duffield, who was taking medication to help her with anxiety and depression, was struggling to cope caring for her 23-year-old son, Adam, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism which can make communication and relationships difficult.
Mrs Duffield, a secretary for teaching union NASUWT, phoned in sick on the day of her death and left her sons, Adam and Stephen Duffield a note in a bedroom, the contents of which were shown to the jury but not read out.
Stephen told the inquest his mother never gave any indication she would harm herself, a view shared by GPs, including Dr Steven Sidaway.
He said: “She was at the end of her tether."
Mrs Duffield saw three GPs at the same practice before her death and her medication was changed which could have influenced her mind.
Worcestershire County Council adult and social care director Sue Pidduck revealed they had known about Adam’s case since November 15 when a referral was received from police over his threats to throw himself off a motorway bridge. On December 16 the team leader for community mental health said Adam did not have a mental health condition and recommended he be referred to county council social workers although requests were made for his mental health to be looked at again.
Mrs Pidduck added Adam received support from charity Rainbow Autism Service and had benefits and housing advice.
Mrs Duffield contacted commissioners to say: “Does someone have to commit suicide before positive action is taken?” Coroner Geraint Williams asked why an assessment of Adam’s needs was not completed sooner after two requests by a psychologist on January 18 and a GP on January 24.
He said: “May I ask the brutal question - was it everybody talking to everybody else and nobody actually getting on with it?”
But Mrs Pidduck said staff were trying to make sure the assessment, now complete, was performed by the right team. The council has taken on two new social workers for six months to manage referrals from the Asperger’s diagnosis service.
The jury recorded an open verdict.