4,000 mile journey ends at a London cemetery: Jet stowaway 'probably still alive' when he fell from undercarriage as it approached Heathrow

Bruising and injuries indicated there was some blood flowing around his body even if he was unconscious, says pathologist

Crime Correspondent

At plot 86 is the final resting place of a young African stowaway whose desperation for a better life in Europe ended in death after falling from the undercarriage of a passenger jet.

The funeral of Jose Matada was attended by six people – none of whom knew him – before he was buried without a headstone in the Muslim section of a west London cemetery. “We had no clue whatsoever who this person was and where he came from,” said funeral director Abdul Rahman. “But as Muslims, it was our duty.”

The brief ten-minute prayer service took place months after Mr Matada was found dead on a suburban street below the final approach into Heathrow after a perilous 4,000-mile journey from Angola. Police had identified him but were forced to admit defeat in their attempts to trace his family in his native Mozambique.

An inquest heard today that Mr Matada was probably unconscious as he fell 2,500-feet when the landing-gear doors opened during the final descent into London in September last year. Police believe that he breached the perimeter fence of Luanda’s airport in Angola and clambered into the undercarriage under the cover of darkness before the plane took off. The temperature was likely to have dropped to -60 Celsuis during the flight and he was wearing only casual clothes with tissue paper in his ears.

Even so, the healthy young man may well have been, just, alive when he fell to his death just three minutes before British Airways flight 76 landed at Heathrow Airport on 9 September last year, his 26th birthday.

Bruising and injuries on his body indicated that there was some blood flowing around his body even if he was unconscious, said pathologist Dr Robert Chapman, who has worked on two similar cases from people falling from flights into Heathrow.

A US expert on the health effects of stowaways has identified 96 cases around the world where people have tried to hide in the wheel housing since 1947. More than 75 per cent of those died.

“He would have been unconscious with just a little bit of activity from his heart,” Dr Chapman told The Independent. “He wouldn’t have known anything about it.”

The Independent revealed in December how Mr Matada’s identity was uncovered after police followed the trail from a mobile phone SIM card found in his pocket to a former employer now living in Switzerland.

The British-Swiss woman told police that Mr Matada had worked for her as a housekeeper and gardener in South Africa until 2010. The former employer described a crudely inscribed and distinctive ZG tattoo on his left arm. The letters were the initials of his nickname, according to the woman.

Mr Matada had texted her from Africa to tell of his intention to travel to Europe for work and to ask her help. Detective Sergeant Jeremy Allsup, who investigated the case, said that the last text message exchange between the dead man and the woman was on 6 September, three days before he was found dead below the flight path on a street in East Sheen.

What happened after 2010 when his employer left the country remains unclear, but coins and other possessions in his pocket suggest that he took a route northwards into Botswana and Zambia before crossing the border into Angola.

Little more was known about him other than he was a recent convert to Islam, prompting the imam of Hounslow Mosque to lead his funeral prayers.

A spokesman for the Mozambique High Commission said it would consider paying for a permanent memorial to the man at Twickenham cemetery to link him to his homeland.

Coroner Dr Sean Cummings, who said that Mr Matada died at “the moment of impact or shortly before”, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor