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Philip Mathews jumped from M20 bridge in Ashford, inquest hears

ByCharlie Harman

A dad who died after jumping off a bridge over the M20 never stopped loving his three children, his family has said.

Philip Mathews, 62, took his own life by leaping from the A28 Canterbury Road bridge in Ashford onto the motorway.

The retired merchant navy officer, who lived in the town, was struck by a lorry.

Scroll down to watch police at the scene at the time

Philip Mathews with his daughter Carla Chacksfield
Philip Mathews with his daughter Carla Chacksfield

An inquest at the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone on Thursday heard how Mr Mathews - who was sectioned in 2016 - was hit by the HGV at about 3pm on Tuesday, January 22.

Officers briefly closed the road in both directions to allow an air ambulance to land just before 4pm, but Mr Mathews was pronounced dead at the scene at 5.10pm.

His nephew, Daniel, says Mr Mathews always wanted the best for his children.

Police stopped drivers going over Canterbury Road bridge
Police stopped drivers going over Canterbury Road bridge

"He wanted them to explore and enjoy life," Daniel said.

"He never stopped loving them.

"He was all about making sure the kids could enjoy their lives and do what they wanted to do."

Flowers left on the Canterbury Road bridge
Flowers left on the Canterbury Road bridge

At the time of the incident, the coastbound carriageway between Junctions 9 and 10 was closed for three hours while emergency services worked at the scene.

Assistant coroner Sonia Hayes heard how two off-duty British Transport Police officers were driving home when they saw Mr Mathews on the wrong side of the bridge.

One officer shouted "I'm the police, don't do it", but a few seconds later Mr Mathews let go of the bridge.

Traffic on Canterbury Road bridge following the incident
Traffic on Canterbury Road bridge following the incident

The HGV driver was unable to swerve to avoid Mr Mathews as he was flanked by a car and another lorry at the time.

Daniel says his dad, Geoff, was "incredibly close" to his brother, who he supported throughout.

"I think, it if wasn't for my dad, he [Philip] would have done it a long time earlier," Daniel said.

"I know Phil respected that my dad never gave up on him.

"The family was unwavering in its support of him, but Geoff was the driving force, arranging appointments and always seeing him.

"He would never give up."

New signage has gone up along the bridge
New signage has gone up along the bridge

Summing up, Ms Hayes said the lorry was almost underneath the bridge when Mr Mathews fell.

She said: "The driver had almost no time to react and there was a very large HGV in the middle lane - almost beside him.

"The only evasive action he could have taken was to stray into these vehicles and that would've resulted in a significant accident that could have caused significant further loss of life.

"Looking at the dashcam, it appeared the driver immediately slammed the brakes on. He did try to stop."

'The family was unwavering in its support of him, but Geoff was the driving force, arranging appointments and always seeing him...' - Daniel Mathews

Ms Hayes recorded the death as suicide.

She said: "One particular thing that was bothering Mr Mathews, the family had told me, was that they had suffered a bereavement in the family - with a member suffering from cancer.

"I'm satisfied people were trying to help him and engage him, and he didn't seem to want that help. It's hard sometimes when there are mental health concerns.

"I'd like to offer my sincere condolences to the driver of the vehicle, who I understand has been deeply affected by this incident.

"It's very telling that you (Mr Mathews' family) have taken time to communicate with the driver and I think that should be praised.

"I will urge others to seek help as their actions affect not only those who love them but a great many others."

Following the incident, his daughter Carla Chacksfield said she was "sickened" by social media comments branding her dad as "selfish" for stopping traffic for three hours.

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.


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