Death on the River Lea

April 16, 2016

Death on the River LeaHackney police tweeted an appeal: ‘“Jack SUSIANTA aged 17, missing from E5. Last seen wearing blue converse T-shirt, green shorts and grey socks. Subject does not have any shoes on and is possibly on a bicycle.”

He was found. The next day, answering a welfare call from his parents, police visited his home. Jack broke a window and fled. He was spotted on Hackney Marshes, mid-afternoon, and jumped into the River Lea to escape. For ten minutes a hundred people watched him surface and go under, surface and go under. Police threw ropes and lifebelts at him but he refused to grab them. They stopped others jumping in, for safety reasons they said. When he stopped coming to the surface the police finally entered the water. They found his body 90 minutes later.

He was seventeen, at a local sixth-form college. His father’s relatives flew in from Bali for Hindu prayers on the bridge. Its railings became a shrine, with sunflowers woven through it. Candles and incense burned, flowers brought and refreshed. Friends left messages on T-shirts, shorts, in letters and poems. ‘Jack, My brother and friend. You were always happy and smiling and telling us about your future. You will be missed more than you’ll know. We all love you Komang. Mais xoxo.’ Passers-by paused and family groups wondered at the tragedy and the love.

Months later his laminated photo still hangs beside crystal beads, smiling.

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