Four-day ordeal of cliff-leap boy

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The Independent Online
A boy who jumped off cliffs at Beachy Head on the South Coast after a row about his girlfriend lay in pain for four days before being rescued yesterday.

Martin Hinchcliffe, 15, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, broke his leg and cracked several ribs falling 35 feet into a 15ft deepgulley. He shouted for help but was not heard. He said he sucked rocks to stop becoming dehydrated.

After spending 72 hours holding on to the cliffs, his cries were heard by Melvyn Kellett, who was walking on the beach below.

When the alarm was raised, coastguards, police and firefighters went to the scene and three firemen and a paramedic abseiled down the cliff to Martin's side.

He was given first aid before being strapped on to a stretcher and lowered to the beach where a lifeboat crew, and rescue helicopter waited.

Martin disappeared last Saturday after a row with his girlfriend's family. He wrote a note to his mother, Janet Hunnisett, saying he would kill himself, walked to the Sugar Lump, an 80ft cliff, and jumped off.

His father, Graham Hinchcliffe, of Lewes, East Sussex, his mother and his stepfather, John Hunnisett, waited on the beach while he was rescued. He was then airlifted to Eastbourne District General Hospital. As he was being rescued, Martin said: "I feel very thirsty. I never thought I was going to make it."

Sergeant Malcolm Richards, one of the rescuers, said: "Martin was completely hidden from view in a deep crevasse and because he weighs some 15 stone they had difficulty winching him out of the gap.

"Rescuers were eventually able to get him on a stretcher and lower him down to the beach below. It was a difficult operation because there were rocks falling all around."

A hospital spokeswoman yesterday said Martin was in a "stable but serious condition".

Mrs Hunnisett said: "I am over the moon. I never thought I would see my son alive again. I thought the worst after he was missing for a couple of days and I am so relieved that he is safe."

Martin's father, Graham Hinchcliffe, who is a fire officer in Lewes, Sussex, but did not take part in the rescue, said: "It is strange being on the other side and realising what other people have to go through.

"The emergency services pulled together and the combined effort saved my son's life."