Witless reporting of Bentall’s suicide

I gained a whole load of new Twitter followers today as a result of live-tweeting a tragic incident that happened in the local shopping centre, the Bentall’s Centre in Kingston. A young woman threw herself from the 3rd floor, and from what I’m aware landed in the basement. The entire centre was rapidly evacuated and, to my knowledge, was not opened for the rest of the day. I was expecting the ambulance staff to bring the victim out on a stretcher so that we could all go back into the building, but that never happened.

I was just about to leave just after 2pm, when I saw two of the centre’s uniformed staff bolt towards the down escalator, nearly knocking an old lady flying. I thought “I hope whatever they are running after is worth it”. I went to near the escalator so I could see over into the basement, and could see someone sitting or lying (I wasn’t sure as it was too far away) near the bottom of the lifts with someone standing over them. I then left the centre, but then heard more sirens and a message saying that “circumstances have made it necessary to evacuate the building”. As crowds gathered outside, police and ambulance cars arrived, and I heard rumours that something — part of the building — had fallen on top of a woman. I sent out a few tweets saying what I thought I knew, then went round the corner as a proper ambulance arrived at the side entrance. I asked some Bentall’s staff if they were going to be opening again any time soon, and they said no, and don’t wait around for it.

So, I went into Waitrose and did some shopping, and came out and the place was still closed. I waited outside the side entrance for a while and heard the doors of the ambulance shut. Outside the entrance, a woman told me that the actual incident consisted of a girl (she said it was a teenager, although press reports are saying early 20s) had jumped from outside the gym on the 3rd floor. I later met a reporter from the Surrey Comet who told me that his paper had a report on its website that a woman had jumped to her death. The guy asked me a few questions, among them what I thought of the incident. Well, what could I say? It’s not as if I knew her or saw it happen; I just happened to be in the centre when it happened. Obviously, it’s very sad that someone jumped to her death but …

Anyway, I got home and had a look for the news reports on the Surrey Comet website. I found this report, which has since been updated with this one. The first report read:

A woman who plunged three floors in the Bentall Centre has died.

London Ambulance Service were called to the Kingston shopping centre just before 2pm today to reports of a fall from a height.

They were unable to save the woman and their investigations are ongoing at the centre, which is currently closed.

The centre was evacuated and a police cordon has been placed around the scene.

On its website, the centre claims its atrium is higher than the nave of Westminster Abbey.

Did you see anything? Do you know the woman? Get in touch with the newsroom on 0208 744 4255.

Like, what on earth has this comparison to Westminster Abbey got to do with the fact that a young woman jumped to her death? Why did they need to put that bit of local trivia into a report on someone’s tragic death? Presumably it was because they had to pad it out somehow, but how about some other details of the centre or a few details of its history, rather than this detail? It’s so out of place and, in the context, makes the centre sound like a good place to kill yourself. Whoever wrote and edited this, wise up!

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