Frank Branston questions suicide reporting in Bedford

Former proprietor of Bedfordshire on Sunday Frank Branston has taken his old paper to task over its reporting of the death of a prominent local man who apparently committed suicide after jumping from one of the upper storeys of a car park in the town.

No media were apparently informed of the inquest into the death of Dave Ledsom.

Branston knew of Ledsom’s death and called a local journalist to find out if they knew what had happened.

Branston, who is now mayor of Bedford, says on his blog:

“My question obviously caused him to make an enquiry and the result was a few paragraphs on page 2 of BoS saying the inquest had taken place on March 10 without any of the local media being informed. Normally the press is warned of up-coming inquests as a matter of course.

“I have no desire to add to the grief of the Ledsom family, but I must say I am appalled.

“Holding an inquest in secret is another step down the slippery slope and I hope the media will take steps to find out why the normal procedure was not followed in this case and not let themselves be fobbed off.”

Former local journalist in Bedford Penny Bowden sheds more light on the matter with her comment on the blog:

“For the first time that I can remember there was no first-hand reporting from a Coroner’s court of a case involving a high-profile town personality that was most definitely in the public interest.

“The report, in Bedfordshire on Sunday, is a sanitised version fed to a gullible press and contains the barest details that simply don’t make sense.

“It said: ‘he died from the consequences of the sudden onset three weeks previously of an endogenous depression which despite concentrated medical and familial support proved resistant to treatment’.

“What this actually means is that he died after jumping from one of the upper storeys of the Lurke Street Car Park. If you want to make it more palatable you can add ‘while the balance of his mind was disturbed’. But really the bitter truth is he committed suicide.

“Both papers reported his death in November as ‘sudden’. What’s more disturbing is that this isn’t the first tragedy in recent months where they have gone along with this.

“While some think full reporting of Dave Ledsom’s tragic passing either at the time or at the subsequent inquest is salacious and unnecessary, the public has a right to know – especially as the manner he chose to die nearly killed a woman passer-by.”

Frank Branston is a journalist turned free newspaper entrepreneur who sold his paper in 2005.

2.30pm update:

I’m told that BoS checked with the police every two weeks to find out if the inquest had been given a date for a hearing only to be told that it wasn’t listed yet – even after the actual inquest had taken place.

So it seems that they can’t be blamed for what looks at best like an official cock-up and at worst like a cover-up.

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