Dead child found with Beachy Head bodies

The bodies of a man, woman and child were found at the foot of a cliff today, police said.

The three unidentified bodies were recovered from the bottom of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, this morning.

Sussex Police were alerted after they received a call from the Coastguard at 8.20pm last night.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said the victims, confirmed as a man and woman, and the third believed to be a young child, were not thought to be local.

At more than 600ft high, the cliffs at Beachy Head are a notorious suicide spot.

In 2004, the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team was set up, whose members patrol the clifftop to try to prevent suicides.

Coastguards, police and volunteers from the chaplaincy team remained at the clifftop today, which was cordoned off.

Eastbourne Coastguard station officer Stuart McNab said coastguards on a routine clifftop patrol saw what they believed to be two bodies about 400ft down the cliff just before 8pm last night but it was decided it would be safer to wait and carry out the recovery today.

Mr McNab, who was one of the first to be winched down the cliff this morning, said he found the child's body in a rucksack along with a second rucksack filled with toys.

He said: "The bag was closed when I got to it. I saw what I thought was a doll's head, but on closer examination it was a child."

He said the second rucksack had toys in it including a tractor and soft toys, but added that he did not look closely as he had to wait for police scenes of crime officers to go down to inspect the scene first.

Mr McNab said an average of 20 people jump from the cliffs at Beachy Head every year.

He said there had been cases of multiple suicides before but they generally tended to involve elderly people.

Police said the child was a boy around five years old.

Chief Inspector Dick Coates, who was also at the scene, said: "The bodies have all been recovered now but have yet to be formally identified.

"This may take place later today or may not be until tomorrow."

He said that a car, believed to be a Volkswagen or caravanette, had been recovered from the clifftop car park and was being examined by officers.

He added that the incident was not being treated as suspicious.

Chaplain director Ross Hardy said volunteers from the chaplaincy team had also assisted emergency services but nobody had noticed three people on the clifftop yesterday.

"Our normal role is preventative," he said.

"We talk to people and try to bring them back from the cliff."

He added that the team intervenes to prevent people jumping between 15 and 30 times a year on average.