Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Death In The Dovecot

In Dovecot Towers, you hear a lot from people you may never see. For example, someone a few doors down loved The Arctic Monkeys. They played it loud - not annoyingly so, but just enough that I noticed.

Last Sunday afternoon I met some new people in the lift, who got out at my floor. They were Australian, and had been buying household items, like a clothes line and a bin. I wondered if they’d just moved in. They’d been here one week: it was The Arctic Monkeys fan and his girlfriend. Carefully, I did my good citizen bit and explained that they needed to ask the landlord to fit a new lock. They didn’t even know who their landlord was, since they had used a letting agency. I gave them the caretaker’s number, and wished them all the best in their new home.

At 2am the following morning I was woken up by screaming and footsteps pounding frantically along the corridor (nothing unusual there). But then I heard a woman begging someone not to touch her, shouting “Keep away from me!”

Envisaging a street attack or a drunken domestic assault, I was racing for my phone when I heard a loud bump, then more screaming, then another ominous thud. On the street below, a woman was pleading frantically for help.

Her boyfriend had jumped from the balcony. It was my near neighbour, the male half of the couple I’d chatted to in the lift that afternoon. She was calling an ambulance, beseeching them to hurry, while begging her boyfriend not to die.

Repeatedly she cried inconsolably: “…this can’t be happening…this can’t be happening.”
She didn’t know what to do, and called the ambulance again, urging them to hurry. I screamed down at her from my balcony to keep him still; that moving him might cause even more harm, but the words: “…his brains are all over road…” made me realise that moving him would make no difference now. Concerned at having heard her earlier begging someone not to touch her, I called the police, who were already on their way.

The Dovecot Towers trademark ‘Heads-Over-The-Railings-Tenants-Ad-Hoc-Residents-Association’ appeared. There was nothing to be done. Judging by the way he was lying, he had died instantly. The young woman bolted a short distance down the street, and faced the wall, shouting: “This isn’t happening!” before turning around and realising that yes, it was really happening. She was remonstrating with her boyfriend: “Oh God, what have you done, don’t die, I love you, I love you. Please don’t leave me.

Then another man appeared, clearly in as bad a state as she was. She said: “Keep away from me, don’t touch me!” then: “It’s all my fault.”
The man said he felt responsible. No ambulance yet, so they called again. She noticed her boyfriend wasn’t breathing, and they attempted to resuscitate him, but to their horror, there was blood in his mouth. A window opened and a woman yelled at her to shut up but another resident, aware of the desperate scenario unfolding below, retaliated: “Shut the fuck up yourself you selfish bitch.”

The ambulance arrived. The paramedic took one look at the broken body lying prone and bleeding on the street and shook his head. He covered the dead man with a blanket. Her remaining hopes extinguished, she berated the paramedic: “You didn’t even try!”

The police came, taped off the scene, and shepherded the girl away from the lifeless man and into the ambulance, where her visceral howling punctured the night. Suddenly police spilled out of vans, unmarked cars arrived and men in suits surveyed the scene. I heard the police enter their flat, heard her crying, and watched them leave in clean clothes, carrying luggage. She was led towards a car. Just before she got in, she curled herself into a ball and rocked to and fro, as a policeman looked on helplessly. Even the police were distressed. I heard one officer say he’d seen dead bodies, but nothing like that before.

Suddenly it was all quiet, and the dead man, with one fractured, contorted leg poking out from underneath the blanket, was left alone in a cordoned off area on the street, watched over by a solitary police van. He looked so lonely. By seven am the corpse had been moved. It was raining. A pool of brain matter was left in a gutter, until the scene of crime cleaners washed it away.

I’ve no idea what happened in that flat; what made a young man jump to his death, and I don’t suppose I ever will. As I write this, someone is embarking on a twenty-four journey from Australia to collect their dead son: the son I spoke to briefly, but never knew.

Does this have anything to do with Dovecot Towers? Maybe; possibly – but then again, perhaps not. People move in and out with alarming frequency, flats are now rented by the month, week, or even by the day. Life is tenuous, alienating, prickly and dehumanised. We don’t know each other. Problems seem larger here, isolation is exacerbated and arguments are inescapable in a tiny one bed flat.

And what about the devastated young woman, who was asking the world, the pavement, God, the sky or anyone, for help? Tomorrow, she’ll wake up and face the future alone with a ruined life, returning home to the flat where her world ended, her soul forever scarred. I’ll never forget the couple I met in a lift, and the harrowing primal sound she made will stay with me forever.

14 comments:

ReubenH said...

8-0 8-0 8-0

There but for the grace of God, etc...

What an appalling thing to happen and to witness. Wishing you well, Rentergirl. FWIW I got sick of the madness of urban living 5 years ago and moved to the countryside, and I didn't ever have to put up with more than, say, 10% of what you deal with! Maybe you should consider doing the same while you still have your sanity...

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Reubenh. It was worse for the people involved. These incidents could happen anywhere, but seem almost common in Dovecot Towers, and I'm not sure why. I am moving, by the way.

Techno Mystic said...

That's really bad. I'm quite speechless.

Dan B said...

Unbelievable. How do you keep sane..
You wouldn't ever want to get into a headspace of thinking this is normal, everday life.

Good luck with the move.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! After you have moved will you tell us exactly where Dovecot Towers is? :)

RenterGirl said...

Thanks for reading, and yes, it is especialy horrible in there, for some reason. Half of me is sceptical, the other thinks that Dovecot Towers was built on an Indian Burial Ground. On the plus side, neighbours seem a lot more friendly, and are concerned about the girlfriend (whose boyfriend died)and are also beginning to realise that the building is - to say the least - a little below par and existing the world of the strange. And no, I won't tell where it is; for no better reason than to stop ID fraud.
Thanks for reading, and for all your good wishes.

Darsalon said...

As a regular reader I'm speechless as someone else commented here. Something that no one who witnessed or was involved in it will ever forget. Awful, completely awful thing to happen.
Good luck with the escape, sorry, your move so you can leave the bad vibes of Dovecot towers behind.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Darsalon; it was horrible. On the plus side, for the first time ever, I think, I was not the only resident to call the emergency services, and am - along with other tenants - giving a statement to the coroner. It's that girl I am worried about. How will ever get over it?

Anonymous said...

A horrible thing to happen but not actually that uncommon. Windows in council flats in Manchester have locks on for this very reason. As well as thinking of the other people, you need to look after yourself too. When you witness something traumatic like this it can be a few days before the emotions hit home.

This week I read that 25% of people in Manchester are binge drinkers. When you consider that, the drugs and all the other social problems and then cram people together into depressing pokey apartment blocks it's hardly surprising that it is hell.

In the last few weeks, in a block near me, one resident deliberately set his flat on fire using fire lighters, putting other lives at risk, and another stunk out neighbours with fumes from his cannabis farm. So extreme and obvious to all that the police noticed and smashed down his door.

Glad to her you're moving.

MattW said...

What an awful thing to happen.

RenterGirl said...

What anonymous said about balconies is interesting, and appalling, and something that designers should consider. 'Upmarket' flats have internal balconies, which give more privacy, and allow fresh and a view while being safer. You are also right in that it did take a few days upest me, especially yesterday talking to the coroner. But my trauma is but a pin-prick compared to his poor girlfriend. I don't think that the alienation of shoebox was a cause here (they'd only live dhere a week) but for others, who are more, isolated: well, it's a major worry.
Thanks for your comments and kind thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Please, take this OFF the internet. This is horrendously traumatising for ANYONE to read, never mind friends and relatives who had to go through this. His family are australian, what if they google search what happened? please, take it down...just delete it, take it down. You can't describe in this blog how people could feel if they read this, or what emotions people are still going through. take it off the internet, please.

RenterGirl said...

I don't know what to say. I can't imagine that anyone who went through it will be reading this. if that is the case, then pleae get in touch. There are no identifying names. I can't imagine that his family or anyone else will google to find details about their sons death, or that they will read it casually. As you can see, the only responses are entirely sympathetic. I don't know what to say. It's already on the internet. The people who were there I am sure as I stressed are severely traumatised and will have better things to do than read an obscure blog.

RenterGirl said...

I've just googled the events with the facts and real names, and nothing came up. This is upsetting, but it's also real. Like I say, I doubt the people directly affected will be reading this blog, read mostly by my friends and other property sites. It's clearly tagged 'suicide.' Is that what you were googling? Why were you doing that? I am sorry you have clearly taken this to heart.