Every now and then, I come across a news story that attracts my attention. I would think a lot about the main protagonist of the story and wonder why they did what they did…
A 36 year old mother and her 17 year old daughter committed suicide in June of this year by jumping in front of the train at London’s Ealing station, surrounded by shocked bystanders.
A 17 year old girl is usually capable of making her own decisions about her life. And a 17 year old has her whole life ahead of her. From all accounts it appeared that they linked arms and ran out from the waiting room of the station to the platform’s edge and jumped. What could have been the reason for this decision for mother and daughter to want to die this way? The mother isn’t even old. At 36 she is younger than me. She had her daughter at 19. What else could I find about her?
Her name is not very common. Searching only produced a handful of social media accounts. Only one Celise Mclean I found was based in London until the day she died. The other Celise Mcleans were white women in Australia and America. As a result of my own findings, which I’ll detail below, I conclude that the Celise Mclean in the news article is a British black woman, possibly of Jamaican origin, who was a long term resident of Havelock Estate in London.
There was a news article dated the 24th December 2008 here which mentioned her here :
In this article, the writer reprinted Celise’s poem, which he spotted as he walked past a Black/Afro hair salon in Hounslow, London. Addressing her poem to black males, she makes a sincere plea for them to consider switching from a life of violent crime to pursuing the beauty of the spoken word. To be a real man, she implies, requires dropping the knives.
Celise was quite the poet. Googling found me more of her self-penned poetry. I find her poems raw and full of sincerity, honesty and emotion.
Here is a short eBook of 2 of her poems published in June 2008 that that can be downloaded here :
The first poem being of a romantic sexual nature. The second, a tribute to women of colour, praising them for their strength in overcoming the adversity they were up against from the moment they were born. She also describes quite bittersweetly how many black women go through a pattern of relationship failures with black men, who went on to substitute them with “white Barbie doll” partners.
Through this website, I found that Celise had an active account there around 2008. I’ve never been a big poetry fan and I never knew there were websites like this enabling amateur poets to showcase and publish their poems online. It even has a medal system to encourage active participation amongst its member poets! Well at least Celise had published some of her poems on there and they will always be in her name.
On another poet’s page on that poem site, Celise commented on and praised a poem composed by Melvina Germain :
Dedicated to black baby boys, Melvina reminds mothers about the importance of nurturing their (God-given) black baby boys so as to enable them to counter the negative social pressures, stereotypes and oppression they will face in life.
It appeared that all was not well with Celise perhaps, by the end of the year 2009, about a year after she had published her first 2 poems.
From her main profile page at poemhunter.com here :
there were 2 comments left by a friend of her’s on the site – someone by the name of Edwin Empestan (alba) – who seemed to be concerned about Celise’s well-being. On the 22nd of November 2009, at 2.43 PM, Edwin wrote “Where are you Celise?”, followed a minute later by “Are you okay? I been looking for your poems.”
It seems as though Edwin knew something about Celise’s problems. Edwin is a Filipino poet, from what I surmised from his profile page on the site. He worked in the healthcare field so naturally this points to the fact he is a “helping” sort of person. Perhaps Edwin had been privy to her problems. Perhaps they chatted at some point.
I also found information on the electoral roll about Celise here, which sounds about right and seems to fit :
Both addresses she was registered to on the electoral roll were in a similar area, with Uxbridge postcodes. Now that sounds about right too, as the news reports of her train suicide also say she is from Uxbridge.
Here’s something I tried to find out about the area where Celise used to live, according to her electoral roll records. It says that she lived at 50 Hillary Road, Southall, UB2 4PX. That area was part of one huge housing estate called Havelock Estate, plagued with drugs, homelessness and crime (and poverty).
Then I found this from the local council of the estate which says that the estate is scheduled for regeneration starting from 2013, and thus will be demolished. Many residents in the estate will be told to move out in phases. Where Celise used to live, according to electoral roll records, was 50 Hillary Road. Says there on the local council link that residents living in house numbers 18 – 64 (even numbers) on Hillary Road will have to move out by January 2015. That’s Celise’s house in there then, meaning she’d have moved out by Jan 2015. This matches up with electoral records showing she was a registered voter at 15 Brentford Close in UB4 for the year of 2014 to 2015.
It also says at the bottom of the council page’s Q&A section regarding the demolition and regeneration of Havelock Estate :
“Will there be a ballot of residents before the regeneration goes ahead?
No. The decision to proceed with the regeneration was taken by the council’s cabinet in April 2012. It is not a requirement for councils to ballot residents on proposals to demolish and redevelop estates. A ballot is only required if there is a change of landlord for an existing home. ”
I don’t know about you but I always found it shocking that housing estates can be demolished and residents forced to move at the drop of a hat.
Celise would have been one of those forced by the council to move out, even if she didn’t wish to. She could have been upset at having to move from a home in which she had lived for a very long time, and grown attached to. She moved to Hayes, Middlesex, about 3 miles away from her old home. Not too far away. However who knows how much the move had affected her? What if she had made some close friends whilst living in Havelock Estate for so long, and due to the regeneration, she and her friends were thus separated? Perhaps her friends moved far away from her as a result? What effect would that have had on her?
And if she had mental health issues, she would likely have been failed by the services meant to protect her. The mental health services in UK especially fail people from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. In fact, she could have been even more troubled by a forced move from a home she had grown attached to, if she had mental health issues, which would further destabilise her mental health.
Celise seemed mentally troubled. No one in their right mind would commit suicide the way she did. Her friend Edwin’s remarks on her profile page too relate to mental problems or at least problems in life of some kind. Perhaps quite serious ones as it seemed she was a very active poet on there and all of a sudden she wiped out all her poems so they cannot be seen by anyone. From her spelling, I think she may have been dyslexic. It’s just my guess of course and I am happy to be corrected. If she really was dyslexic, then she could have found it hard to succeed in academics. This could have limited the career options available to her, especially if she wanted to pursue some sort of literary career – like poetry? And she was an aspiring poet.
What about the Heathrow comment she made before she died? In the news article, a witness said she asked him for directions on how to take a train to Heathrow airport. It sounds like her wish to go to Heathrow airport was related to travel abroad. And she mentioned she wanted to stop some people in Heathrow airport from doing something. Perhaps she wanted to stop them from leaving the country? I don’t know. That was the strongest gut feeling I had when I read her last words. It sounded like people she loved or was close to were leaving her and she wanted to stop them from doing so.
What adds to this fact is that Celise was possibly an immigrant herself. I was unable to find a birth record of her in the UK, so chances were she moved to England as a young child.
This is bolstered by the fact that I’ve found quite a few people online whom I believe are her relatives – many of them black musicians or artists of Caribbean descent – with the surname Mclean. I don’t want to name names here because it appears that they wish to remain private. If the leads that I’ve found so far are correct, then many of her relatives are currently living in London and America (particularly New York), tracing their ancestry from Jamaica.
One male I found in my searches who may be her relative is about the same age as her and was listed as having moved from London to New York in the 80s. Now that made me think that perhaps a branch of her close family had moved abroad in the 80s (when she was still a little girl, as she must have been born in 1979 if she was 36 this year). Perhaps all her life, she always wished that hadn’t happened, for some reason or another. She chose to jump in front of the train because she knew getting to Heathrow airport by then was a pointless exercise – perhaps her family had already left a long time ago and nothing could change that fact. Perhaps the thought tortured her so, she chose to die jumping in front of the train, hoping that if she focused on going to stop “them” at Heathrow when the train hit her, she would be able to go back in time or be teleported to the place and time in order to alter destiny! If that is the reason, then my suspicion is she could be schizophrenic or suffer from delusions. Also seems likely as she certainly was a creative individual, as well as her artist/musician family members (if the leads I found were correct). Creative minds mimic “schizophrenia”.
Hey but we live in a mysterious universe. And scientists say that that time exists in dimensions. Is time travel/teleporting possible? Very Dr. Who-ish I know, but it is a possibility just not technologically feasible at this stage of human civilisation… Having so very few facts to go on, with quite a bizarre set of circumstances leading up to her death, it is easy to let our imaginations run wild. No wonder this news article was so popular – it was reported in at least several UK and US media outlets.
Alternatively, the actual reason for her actions might be less fanciful than I imagine. Perhaps all that talk she made about Heathrow was just to fool the bystanders around her so they wouldn’t predict she was going to jump, and thus no one would try to stop her from doing it.
From what I’ve gathered, there seemed to be a somewhat dreamy, imaginative quality to Celise when she was alive, so it is not impossible that she might well have planned her suicide in the hopes of it leading to something greater than death… as if she was trying to transcend death itself and move on to another plane of existence. It is very easy to imagine a whole string of possible reasons why she could have wanted to jump in front of the train really.
The sad facts are that Celise’s death was the total result of so many very deep and interconnected issues – institutional racism, prejudice and poverty seemed to feature poignantly in her life. When all these factors are present, there is a higher chance of developing mental illness and the illness not being treated correctly because she was black. It is sad to see that someone would ever think of wanting to die the way she did. I tossed and turned in bed and could not stop thinking of this, and I felt this would never be appeased until I write about it in my blog. Despite never having met or known Celise nor her family – I did live in London many years ago for a short period and I do wonder if we’ve ever bumped into each other, even once. I am now writing this as a sort of tribute to this lady whose story had affected me.
Celise was a strong black woman. A kind mother who tried very hard to do right by her kids. I refuse to judge her based on the way she chose to kill herself. Neither will I judge her decision to commit suicide, or to leave her son behind. I will never be able to understand what she went through, but I can try. Walk a mile in her shoes before you judge somebody, as the saying goes. Without knowing her state of mind at the time, or her exact worries at the time, it is impossible. And no one can ever know that about a person. No one can ever truly know someone inside out.
As for her daughter Leia, I can’t find anything online about her other than what could be her Twitter account @McLeanLeia – very inactive, or at least, there were no posts/photos so she could have posted but deleted everything, or she never used it after setting it up, or perhaps it has been locked down by Twitter following her death. I looked on her friends list in the Twitter account and found out some of them are Londonders so this gave me some reassurance that this Twitter account was indeed her’s. Of course, none of this explains why she chose to die with her mum. I think she may have been very close to her mother – perhaps they even had a codependent relationship – and she couldn’t envision life without her mum. So perhaps one day her mum expressed a wish to die, and she decided to die with her mum as well? Who knows? Did Leia have any special needs or mental health issues which made her vulnerable to being persuaded to do something easily? Who knows?
I feel sorry for her son, Devon, whom she left behind, but I hope he will find solace in the fact that she did love him and wanted him to do well. That she would not have killed herself if she could see a better way out of her situation at the time.
Devon, she wanted you to be strong and wise, and to do the right thing. Forgive her if it might seem as if she had made the worst decision. Whatever it was, she was clearly not able to see hope in staying alive in this world. She did what she did because it was the best way she knew how. She is now at peace and forever able to be at your side. No longer hindered by material hindrances, her eternal consciousness will watch over you lovingly from above, as long as you live on this Earth. Remember her hopes and dreams for you. She believes you can make them come true.
Rest in peace Celise and Leia.