Popular schoolgirl hit by train as she scrambled to get off tracks, inquest told

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Kate Mullins
Kate Mullins (16) was a pupil at Highcliffe School

A POPULAR Highcliffe schoolgirl died instantly on the railway line after desperately trying to scramble out of the way of a train hurtling towards her.

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Kate Mullins (16) was said to be suffering anxiety over forthcoming GCSE exams and had self-esteem issues in the months leading up to her death on 17th March.

An inquest at Bournemouth coroner’s court heard a statement from Kate’s mum, Donna, about how her daughter had “everything to live for” and that she had never shown any indication that she wanted to kill herself.

Mrs Mullins told how she had left Kate at home on the day she died “laughing and giggling” saying she “appeared absolutely normal”.

Kate was due to be picked up later to join her mother at The Amberwood Pub, in Walkford, where the pair both worked.

But Kate had told the taxi driver who arrived at the family home in Halifax Way, Mudeford, to drop her off at Christchurch instead. She was seen on CCTV walking around the area alone before she made her way to Pokesdown station, in Boscombe, where she was killed.

Kate Mullins
Kate Mullins was pronounced dead on the railway line at Pokesdown

Mrs Mullins told how her daughter, a pupil at Highcliffe School and a member of the St John Ambulance, had become increasingly worried about her forthcoming exams, started to lose weight and exercise a lot.

She said Kate was worried that people “didn’t like her but this was furthest from the truth as she was very well liked”. Mrs Mullins said she had taken her daughter to a doctor about the issues but said her daughter had never been diagnosed with depression.

Kate had a good circle of close friends and a boyfriend who Mrs Mullins said her daughter “loved and was very happy with”.

Talking about one incident earlier in March when Kate had gone missing from home, Mrs Mullins said Kate had later told her that she had “thought about throwing herself under a car, but she would not have done it”.

Mrs Mullins added: “I have racked my brain and cannot think of any reason why this happened. She gave no indication of things being so bad.

“I think of her often, all the time and will miss her for the rest of my life.”

Highcliffe School head teacher Patrick Earnshaw described her as a “model” pupil, saying at the inquest: “She was very well liked, she had a secure and strong group of friends.

“She worked hard, she was extremely well-behaved and admired and respected by staff who taught her.”

Mr Earnshaw said that in January he had had a meeting with Kate and her mother about the Year 11 pupil being anxious about her exams, losing weight and having self-esteem issues about whether she was liked.

He said Kate had told him “she was feeling under pressure”.

Mr Earnshaw said: “I was aware she was working really hard. She had a very strong work ethic and wanted to succeed.”

He said Mrs Mullins had also told the school about the incident when Kate went missing. But he said the schoolgirl had said “she had just been angry and flared up and needed time away. There was no cause for concern”.

As a result of their meeting he had referred Kate to pastoral care in the school.

He said on the Friday before her death Kate had had an extra session with a teacher to prep for a science exam. He said she was described as “nervous but optimistic” and in a “good frame of mind”.

‘She was very well liked’

The head teacher said he spoke to Kate’s friends after she died who “confirmed that she was anxious about her exams and her appearance and weight”. But he said they were “equally shocked at what had happened” saying she had never indicated she was thinking of ending her life.

School nurse Kara Grover told the inquest how she had seen Kate once in February. She said Kate told her that she would “start off in the morning really happy and in a good mood but if one little thing that happened she couldn’t get over it”.

She also said that Kate had told her that the “nearer the exams were getting, the more anxious she was becoming”.

The schoolgirl admitted to self-harming twice but said she “didn’t like the marks it had left” and had not done it again.

Ms Grover said that she had not discussed suicidal thoughts with Kate as the way she was presenting “didn’t ring any alarm bells”.

She said: “She wasn’t isolating, wasn’t withdrawing” and had said that she felt like “eight out of 10” most days.

Ms Grover said she had given Kate several self-help resources including books, websites and a text message service run by Dorset school nurses.

The nurse told the inquest: “I didn’t consider that she was at any risk of harm to herself.”

‘Didn’t ring any alarm bells’

But she also revealed that she had been unaware of the incident when Kate went missing in March and also things that had happened at her previous school.

Ms Grover said that had she been aware, she would have “sought advice” from the NHS children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The inquest heard how Kate’s last desperate moments were captured on CCTV which showed her arriving at the station at 8.25pm.

DS Gemma Ryan, from British Transport Police, told how Kate sat on a bench on a platform for around five minutes.

She said: “She is then seen to approach the edge of the platform and dangles her legs over, then steps down.”

She told how police had been alerted to Kate having gone missing earlier that day when she failed to turn up at The Amberwood pub. Police were searching for her when they were told that a female had been hit at the station.

DS Ryan said after being dropped off at Christchurch, two hours of Kate’s time was were unaccounted for but CCTV picked her up at 5.54pm.

She was seen walking alone in Christchurch before making her way to Pokesdown Station two-and-a-half hours later.

Train driver Andrew Barrett revealed in a statement read out at the inquest how he had seen “a female figure” in front of him on the tracks as he came round a bend at over 60mph.

As he slammed on the brakes of the empty train and sounded his horn, Mr Barrett said Kate “looked like she was trying to climb back onto the platform”.

‘Kate’s death is undoubtedly a tragedy’

The inquest heard that Kate had been totally alone on the platform and had been unable to haul herself up.

Mr Bennett said after trying to get off the tracks she then started “running away from the train” but was hit and killed outright.

A post-mortem examination revealed Kate died of multiple injuries.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, assistant coroner Brendan Allen said he was not satisfied that Kate had intended to commit suicide when she got on the railway tracks.

Having studied the CCTV of her last moments, he believed it was “not her intention to end her life, but tragically she was not able to get back onto the platform before a train traveled through the station”.

Adding that what had happened highlighted the dangers of going onto the tracks at a railway station, Mr Allen said: “Kate’s death is undoubtedly a tragedy.”

If you feel the need to talk to someone, contact the Samaritans free, 24 hours a day, on 116 123, or Childline on 0800 11 11.

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