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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Mystery of double deaths tragedy
Helen Rogan and her son Mark
Ms Rogan and Mark jumped 180 feet to their deaths
Experts are mystified by Helen Rogan's tragic decision to take her own life and that of her 11-year-old autistic son, Mark.

An independent inquiry into the case found there had been no evidence to suggest the 38-year-old would take such an extreme course of action.

But a family friend told an inquest into the deaths that Ms Rogan had been worried about her ability to cope with her growing son's future needs.

Ms Rogan jumped with her son from a viaduct to their deaths in September last year, after an earlier attempt to end their lives by slashing their wrists and taking prescribed tablets.

Families are shouldering the burden of care alone

National Autistic Society

The case has caused some care organisations to criticise the amount of help available to families and carers of people with autism.

Support is often "lacking" with potentially "devastating" results, according to the National Autistic Society (NAS).

The charity said such families often fell "between gaps" in the statutory services and were consequently "excluded from the systems of essential help and support".

"As a result, families are shouldering the burden of care alone without financial help or respite.

"Under such circumstances, 'normal' life becomes impossible and the emotional stress on the whole family unit can be devastating."

'Under pressure'

Ms Rogan, who was separated from Mark's father, had given up her job as an occupational therapist several years before to look after her son.

Helen Geldard of the County Durham Autistic Support Group - which Ms Rogan consulted - said there had been no obvious signs that she was not coping.

I believe she thought she was doing the best thing

Andrew Tweddle
But one of Ms Rogan's neighbours, John Greener, said he believed she had increasingly struggled to care for her son's needs.

"Prior to Helen doing what she did, that laddie was getting a hell of a pull on her," said Mr Greener.

"[Mark] was a powerful bairn, he was just growing into a young man.

"There were mood swings. When he was difficult I think he must have been very difficult for her.

"The week of her death I saw her pulling that lad down to the car and the look on her face, she was so drawn."

'Loving and caring'

At the inquest in January this year, North Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle said he believed Ms Rogan had been increasingly worried about the future and "what it would hold for herself and her son".

Mark Rogan
Mark Rogan's mother feared for his future
She was concerned Mark would be taken from her care, although there had been no suggestion that this would happen, he said.

"I believe she thought she was doing the best thing for herself and for Mark.

"She thought without Mark she would have no life, and without her he would have no life.

"It's abundantly clear to me she was the most loving and caring parent."

'Feelings of isolation'

The independent report into the case investigated what help the family had been given, amid claims there had been a lack of support from social workers.

It concluded that no-one could have predicted the tragedy and that no agency or individual could be held responsible.

But it also called for changes to the way disabled children are assessed, and highlighted the need for better care management.

The National Autistic Society said better awareness of the specific needs of families affected by autism was needed, if they were to get the necessary support.

"Families also need help and information on autism immediately after diagnosis to combat feelings of isolation.

"Sadly, all too often this support is lacking."

See also:

29 Jan 02 | England
18 Sep 01 | UK
27 Sep 01 | England
04 Apr 01 | A-B
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