Gifted girl, 16, fell to her death on test day

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The Independent Online
A HIGHLY gifted but "disturbed" teenager jumped to her death from the top of a multi-storey car park on the day she was due to begin her GCSE examinations, an inquest was told yesterday.

Amy Burgess, 16, of West Mersea, Essex, had taken an overdose a few months before when she was preparing for an art examination.

She was seen on 20 May leaping from the fifth floor of a car park about 20 minutes after leaving the Philip Morant school in Colchester after failing to sit a German oral exam.

The Colchester inquest was told that earlier that day she had been seen sitting on the crash barrier at the top of the car park with her head in her hands. She then returned to school and spoke to a teacher about her problems, telling him that she wished that she had had the courage to jump.

The coroner, Dr Malcolm Weir, recorded an open verdict, saying he could not be satisfied beyond doubt that Amy, who left no suicide note, had intended to kill herself. Police said they were certain that no one else had been involved in her death.

Her school's head of English, Peter Johnson, said Amy, who was taking 10 GCSE examinations, was one of the brightest pupils he had taught. However, she had great difficulty with written work and had a feeling that life was not worth living.

Mr Johnson said: "In one of her mock GCSE exams she had not written anything at all. She just sat down the whole time and did nothing.

"She was a deeply unhappy young woman. She claimed she had never read anything or heard anybody say anything that made her think life was worth living."

Amy's father, Kevin Burgess, told the inquest she "had never been the happiest child".

The school's headteacher, Russell Moon, said he was satisfied that staff had done all they could and that the school procedures were sound. But he added that schools and parents might need to think harder about the problems exceptionally gifted children can face and the way they were dealt with.