‘An absolute tragedy’ – coroner confirms death of Exeter teenager at Beer cliffs was suicide

A heartbroken teenager from Exeter jumped 240 feet to his death after breaking up with his girlfriend, an inquest heard.

A coroner said 18-year-old William Fowles, of Pinhoe, and his girlfriend were involved in ‘a volatile relationship between two young people where emotions were running extremely high’.

Assistant coroner for Devon Deborah Archer described William’s death as an ‘absolute tragedy’.

She said: “As a society we need to stop this happening to young men.”

The inquest at Exeter’s County Hall was told that William, formerly of Broadclyst, East Devon, and the teenage girl had been in a relationship for several months before his death in September 2019.

The coroner said they had a ‘teenage argument’ and they messaged each other – which resulted in them breaking up.

Bricklayer William then sent a long text to her saying she was amazing and that he never intended to hurt her, and to apologise to both their families.

William drove from his family home in Pinhoe, Exeter, to Beer on the East Devon coast where he sent another text to her saying: “I am so scared”.

The inquest heard how he jumped to his death from the sheer cliffs, which were only accessible by climbing over a fence. His body was found by the coastguard the next day.

William died from a severe head wound, a post-mortem found.

His father, Stuart, said his son was a loving, caring, happy-go-lucky lad who had so much to live for, and he did not believe he would kill himself.

The coroner said it would be ‘distressing and incomprehensible’ to William’s family that he killed himself but concluded on the balance of probabilities that is what happened.

And she said that the girlfriend was not at the inquest, adding that she ‘has a right to defend herself and a right to be here, and that’s really important’.

Detective Sergeant Peter Trudgeon said there was no evidence of a third party being involved in William’s death.

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