A retired Kent academic may have sacrificed own life to save a friend

    Chartham Railway Station

    A retired academic may have sacrificed his own life to save a suicidal friend from being killed when she leapt on to a railway line, an inquest heard.

    David Ashworth, 74, was hit by a train travelling at around 70mph after jumping on to tracks near Chartham railway station in Kent to save 38-year-old Ella Akehurst.

    Having been unable to push mentally-ill Ms Akehurst out of the train’s path, it is believed Dr Ashworth positioned her on the track so she would not be hurt.

    The inquest, at Margate Magistrates’ Court, heard the 10.22 Charing Cross to Ramsgate service carrying 41 passengers passed over Ms Akehurst, but killed father-of-two Dr Ashworth.

    Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner James Dillon, said: “The evidence from British Transport Police is that in attempting to assist Ms Akehurst, Dr Ashworth had placed himself in a perilous position.

    “Presumably being unable to push her out of the path of the oncoming train, it is highly likely that he tried to position her so that she wouldn’t suffer further injury.

    “In so doing, he may have sacrificed the opportunity of getting himself out of harm’s way and, as a result, was hit and killed by the train.”

    University of Manchester graduate Dr Ashworth – who retired from the University of Kent in 2003
    – has now been nominated to the Cabinet Office for a posthumous civilian gallantry award.

    The inquest heard that father-of-two Dr Ashworth, who lived in Sturry, near Canterbury, was a family friend and “unofficial carer” for Ms Akehurst, who suffered with bipolar disorder.