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Haytor Tragedy

Haytor Tragedy

I have thought long and hard about posting this page because any tragic loss is a personal tragedy which does not need to be publicised. In the event of a loved one taking their own life the loss is even more unbearable which I know only too well from personal experience as it leaves the big question as to why? When a wife and two young children are involved the pain and grief is unimaginable. However, there has been a great deal of ongoing national media coverage of this tragedy and sadly Haytor has become a morbid attraction for some people and will for many years to come be associated with the event.

Haytor Tragedy

On the 13th of July 2013 it was reported that two bodies had been found at the bottom of the main outcrop of Haytor. The local police, their helicopter, an air ambulance, Dartmoor National Park rangers and members of the Dartmoor Rescue Group all attended the scene. They found that the bodies were those of a twenty four year old mother and her five year old son who it appeared had died as a result of falling from the 457 metre summit. Later that day the body of her two year old son was discovered at their home in Paignton. Initially the police were treating the Haytor incident as ‘unexplained’ but following the discovery of the second child’s body at their home the investigation became a murder case. The funeral for the mother and her two young sons was held on the 5th of August.

It was believed that the mother along with her son took a taxi ride up to Haytor the day before the tragedy occurred as the police discovered the child’s car seat in a nearby quarry. This led to the suggestion that both spent the night on Haytor, possibly in the quarry where the seat was found. There were eye witness reports that the mother was seen with the child on her shoulders shortly before the fall but later the police suggested that the child had died previously. At the time there was also an appeal for the girl’s missing mobile phone which remained undiscovered. If you were contemplating such a desperate act why would you take your mobile phone with you if not to summon assistance at some stage?

Then the media began their sensationalising and fingers started pointing, the family were the subject of a Safeguarding Partnership intervention, she had gone missing on a previous occasion, her partner was awaiting trial for assaulting the mother, she was suffering from depression caused by relationship problems, etc etc.

The inquest into the tragedy was opened on the 17th of July but then adjourned to a later date and until its findings are announced the exact causes of these deaths will not be confirmed.

What is appallingly morbid are the reports of so-called sight seers who attended the scene and watch the tragedy unfold. A report from a local bed and breakfast owner related how, at the time he had a German family staying with him. The day of the incident they asked for directions to Dartmoor and advice on what to see. As Haytor is a major Dartmoor attraction it was suggested they went there where unfortunately they witnessed the tragedy. When the family returned later that day they appeared slightly distressed and when asked why the mother related the following experience:

From this desperately tragic event, the mother had selected, seemingly at random, a particular aspect on which to vent her perhaps confused emotions. What had most impressed and outraged her sensibilities, she claimed, was the awful behaviour of the public. From the sudden increase in traffic, it was obvious to her that once news of the tragedy had spread, ghouls jumped in their cars and made purposefully for the beauty spot. Elderly couples in collapsible chairs, their mouths crammed with food, she said, were watching the recovery of the bodies avidly through binoculars, as though a sporting event.” – online source, The Spectator – HERE

As with any possible crime scene the police immediately cordoned off the area around Haytor where the incident took place. This meant, as described above the only way to observe the event was through binoculars form afar. Why would anyone want to watch such a thing? I suppose it’s an innate desire for some humans to witness tragedy, very much akin to those ‘rubber-neckers’ who have to slow down and watch when coming across motorway accidents? 

On the 2nd of February 2013 a sixty year old man was seen on top of Haytor in what at the time was described as a, “distressed state.” The local police were called and attempted to communicate with the man in an attempt to talk him away from danger, sadly to no avail as he too jumped to his death.

Why is Haytor becoming a location for such events? Is it the fact that they are the highest rocks which are conveniently situated to a road? Perhaps because it’s a busy beauty spot with plenty of people around to witness such events? Or, and hopefully not, due to the media coverage has it become popularised for copycat deaths? Ironically there is a local legend dating back hundreds of years of a young bride taking the same leap. The difference with this tale is that her wedding gown acted as a parachute and she floated down to safety.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor


  1. how bad is the bogs and quicksand on dartmoor as ant body ever died in the bogs and quicksand can you give me locations of bogs and quicksand so i know to avoid when i next visit and go on advenchure

  2. I’m won’t bore you with how I came to your pages but:
    “Why is Haytor becoming a location for such events?”
    Is it? Or rather was it?
    Try researching suicides on Haytor today and the tragic deaths of the mother and her children are virtually all you can find. Maybe this is ‘the algorithm’ at work these days – which again says something about our society today, but yours is the only mention I can find of the earlier tragedy of gentleman who preceded them on the 2nd of February.
    Well done for mentioning him because these days no one else does. No doubt his family and friends remember though.
    I often wonder if coverage of his death may have been what led that mother to Haytor but any such reference to that earlier gentlemans tragedy seems lost to normal searches now.
    I have read Mr Clarkes article in the Spectator many times and the German tourists vivid description of the ghouls could just have easily been in February: a brilliant sunny day – albeit with a bitingly cold howling wind, lots of walkers, people gathered watching while the officers and, a little later, the air ambulance crew fought in vain trying to save the gentleman who was in reality already long gone.
    But has Haytor become a location for such events? No, I think not, but closer to the events it may have seemed so.
    So, a thoughtful will written piece. I shall explore Lengdary Dartmoor further.
    Thank you.

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