Firefighter, 21 who killed himself ‘was being racially discriminated against’

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

Jaden Francois-Esprit died at his home in Brewhouse Lane, Wapping, east London, on August 26 2020, three weeks after his 21st birthday.

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 on Tuesday heard from Mr Francois-Esprit’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.

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 said Mr Francois-Esprit 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 they had conversations about race and George Floyd – a black man who died in Minneapolis in the US on May 25 last year after a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck.

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.

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

Mr Francois-Esprit’s cause of death was recorded as suspension.

The inquest continues.