Tragedy averted as couple talk man down from scaffolding

Christine and Paul Tew on their fourth floor balcony overlooking Fore Street in Ilfracombe.

Christine and Paul Tew on their fourth floor balcony overlooking Fore Street in Ilfracombe. - Credit: Archant

It was a normal Sunday evening for the Tews in Ilfracombe - until someone walked past their fourth floor window...

AN ILFRACOMBE couple have been praised by police for averting a potential tragedy after discovering a young man clinging to scaffolding outside their flat - four storeys above the ground.

Paul and Christine Tew were stunned to see someone walk past their fourth floor balcony in Fore Street on Sunday of last week, just after 7pm.

It was an 18-year-old who had climbed scaffolding on the outside of the building and perched himself precariously on the planks at the very end of the scaffold.

While Paul called the police, Christine opened the window to talk to the young man, who has not been identified: “He told me he was looking for some peace and quiet.

“So I started asking him questions, which began with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers and at the same time he was moving towards the edge of the planks, which frightened the life out of me.”

Fortunately for the young man, he had picked a spot outside the balcony of a former advice and guidance trainer and assessor, not to mention life coach, so Christine used her people skills to encourage him to open up.

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“In the end I must have worn him down because he started responding and answering questions. I got him to come and stand in front of me and talk to me. He didn’t say he was suicidal, just that he wanted to spend some time on his own.”

Paul added: “You could tell straight away something was wrong. I went out to tell him off for being on the scaffolding, but you could see by his demeanour that he was not messing about.”

When police officers Chris Caley and Chris Mannell arrived some 10 minutes later they were able to convince the teenager to come inside without too much trouble and he was taken to stay with relatives in Bideford.

In a letter of thanks to the Tews, Inspector Roger Bartlett said without their intervention the young man might have been killed or seriously injured:

“Many people would not have done what you did and you should be very proud of your actions that may well have saved this young man’s life,” he said.

“Without good willed people such as yourselves, the work of the local policing team, in seeking to protect people from harm, would be infinitely more difficult.”

Christine said they were happy to go public with their story because she hoped it might highlight the problems young people face: “If it makes people think about young people and gives them some sympathy it will be worth it.

“There is not a lot for them down here, and not a lot of opportunities on offer for them to progress. Many people here go to university, but when they get back there is nothing for them.”

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