Family of hanged firefighter tell inquest he was 'bullied'

Black London firefighter, 21, was found hanged at home after feeling ‘bullied’ and ‘singled out’ as the only BAME member of crew, his family tell inquest

  • Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21, was found hanged at his home on August 26, 2020
  • He’d been training as a firefighter with London Fire Brigade at Wembley station
  • At Poplar Coroner’s Court, his mother accused his crew manager of bullying him
  • His family said they felt he had been singled out as the ‘only person of colour’
  • For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details 

The family of a London firefighter who killed himself said he was being racially discriminated against at his station, an inquest has heard.

Jaden Francois-Esprit was found hanged at his home Wapping, east London, on August 26, 2020, three weeks after his 21st birthday despite no previous history of mental health issues.

He had been training as a firefighter with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and was based at Wembley station. 

An inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court today heard from Jaden’s mother, Linda Francois, who said he had accused his crew manager of bullying him and that he wanted to move to another station but had to wait eight months to complete his workbook training before this could happen.

The family of London firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21, (pictured) who was found hanged at his home Wapping, east London, on August 26, 2020, have said that he was being racially discriminated against at his station, an inquest has heard

In a statement read out in court, Ms Francois said: ‘I felt he was being unfavourably singled out because he’s an ethnic minority.’

She said her son was concerned about not receiving learning support from LFB with his dyslexia, and that he felt ‘isolated, bored and unfulfilled’ at work.

Ms Francois said she felt he was being ‘singled out’ for being young and ‘the only person of colour’ at Wembley station, and described one occasion where he did not want his mother bringing him home-cooked Caribbean food as he ‘felt uncomfortable’ talking about it to colleagues.

She added: ‘This was not the only issue of race and micro aggressions which left Jaden feeling uncomfortable as it highlighted his race negatively.

‘He accused the crew manager of bullying him. He previously publicly berated him.’

An inquest at Poplar Coroner’s Court today heard from Jaden’s mother, Linda Francois, who said he had accused his crew manager of bullying him and that he wanted to move to another station but had to wait eight months to complete his workbook training before this could happen

Ms Francois said her son would talk about being treated unfairly and being made to carry out tasks that were not assigned to him.

‘He hated working at Wembley and accused his crew manager of bullying him,’ Ms Francois said.

‘As a family we believe Jaden had every intention to go to work on August 26, he prepared his uniform.

‘Perhaps the thought of sticking it out for another eight months was unbearable.

‘I don’t think he knew calling in sick was an option.

‘The anxiety got too much and he couldn’t face going back, even for one more day.’

She described her son as ‘practical and confident’ and that he ‘wanted to feel worthy’.  

She said Mr Francois-Esprit (pictured left with his brother Kairo) relayed an occasion at work where one of his crew members talked about getting robbed by five black men, and that he questioned why they had to mention race 

The inquest heard Mr Francois-Esprit, who was part of the ‘Wembley green watch’, raised issues to his family of going to work and sleeping through most of his shifts due to there being nothing to do.

His sister Kelela Francois-Esprit arranged to meet him for dinner on August 20 2020, six days before he died, the inquest heard.

In her statement, which was read out in court, she said Mr Francois-Esprit was not enjoying work for the Wembley green watch and being the ‘only black person there’, and that he described how colleagues ‘make comments about me’.

She said Mr Francois-Esprit relayed an occasion at work where one of his crew members talked about getting robbed by five black men, and that he questioned why they had to mention race.

‘When I left Jaden, I was aware he was not happy at work, but I had no idea he was depressed,’ she said.

Some firefighters told of supporting Jaden in his training at Wembley fire station and helping him to settle in, denying any knowledge of bullying and describing him as part of the team.

A toxicologist report found no drugs or alcohol in his system indicating its use, and his death was treated as non suspicious. A post mortem recorded Mr Francois-Esprit’s cause of death as suspension. Pictured: Jaden as a child

While Jaden’s family said he felt unsupported and that he was singled out in tasks, the inquest heard.

While reading through the family statements, senior coroner Mary Hassell said: ‘I feel very strongly the sense of isolation he felt.’

Ms Francois told the inquest Jaden’s family believe he had every intention of going to work on the day of his death, having prepared his uniform the night before.

She added: ‘We believe his decision to take his own life could possibly have been made when he could not being himself to return to the station and face any more discrimination.

‘Perhaps the prospect of having to stay for another eight months was simply unbearable.’

A toxicologist report found no drugs or alcohol in his system indicating its use, and his death was treated as non suspicious. 

A post mortem recorded Mr Francois-Esprit’s cause of death as suspension. 

The inquest continues. 

Jaden’s older brother Kairo has started raising funds to set up a charitable foundation named The Jaden Project, which will aim to reduce suicide and depression in humans worldwide.

Since he started fundraising, Kairo has raised £3,550 of his £25,000 target. 

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