Mother found dead at scene of daughter's death

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The Independent Online

The irreparable sense of loss felt by Joanne Coombs when her daughter, Natasha, went missing six weeks ago was awful to behold. "The house is so empty without her," Mrs Coombs said during an appeal for information on the teenager's whereabouts. "She is our family. There is just my husband, me and Natasha." As she spoke, she broke down and wept.

Her worst fears were confirmed eight days later, when the 17-year-old's body was found beside a railway track in Essex. The full toll this took on her became clear yesterday when it was revealed that she, too, had been found dead on the same stretch of railway track.

British Transport Police said the driver of the London to Norwich train had discovered a body at 7pm on Tuesday evening, near Manningtree station, after a track fault was reported.

Mrs Coombs' husband, Gary, a mergers and acquisitions manager with Norwich Union, was coming to terms with the loss yesterday. "Joanne was Natasha's best friend, without a shadow of doubt," he said when his daughter first disappeared. "They shared everything together."

Prayers were said yesterday for Mr Coombs, 48, at a church near the family home in Dovercourt, Essex. He was visited by police on Tuesday evening and yesterday he paid a separate visit to a church.

Speaking from the family home after Natasha's disappearance, Mrs Coombs, 40, described the affectionate relationship she shared with "Tashi". Mrs Coombs had lost a second daughter, who was stillborn, a tragedy that was said to have made her relationship with Natasha all the more special.

"She had a boyfriend on and off," Mrs Coombs said weeks ago of her daughter. "She is such a beautiful girl but she didn't realise why she got such attention. She is very modest. Because Natasha and I are so close, I feel I know her friends because they all been welcome in our home."

The circumstances of Natasha's death remain unclear. Police have said the teenager, who vanished after a night out in Ipswich, was hit by a train but they are unsure whether it was an accident or suicide.

She was certainly upset about breaking up with her boyfriend Josh Brennan, 18. They had decided to split so she could concentrate on a new job in Colchester, while Mr Brennan was hoping to get a job in the City. Natasha is thought to have spoken to him at 3.30am on the night she vanished. She also spoke to her mother to say she was on her way home and CCTV cameras spotted her at Ipswich station before she boarded a 10.42pm train. She declined her father's offer of a lift home and said she would take a taxi but her phone then went off-network at Manningtree.

One theory is that Natasha was walking along the railway track to Mr Brennan's home in Lawford when she was hit.

Mrs Coombs was insistent that her daughter had much to look forward to when she died. She was looking forward to a holiday to Canada with her parents in August and her 18th birthday on 8 September.

Her body was eventually found a mile from Manningtree station. An inquest is yet to be held.

Mrs Coombs' parents, were said yesterday to be "completely and utterly devastated". Peter Clackett, 62, and his wife Wendy, 60, had put up their life savings as a reward for information when Natasha, went missing.

After Natasha's funeral, her friends left bouquets and bars of her favourite chocolate, wishing her a happy 18th birthday. Yesterday, an anonymous friend left a floral tribute to both mother and daughter. The accompanying message said: "RIP Tash and Joanne."

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