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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Beachy Head hero stung by critics
Keith Lane
Keith Lane said he was scaling down his Beachy Head patrols
A man who claims to have stopped 29 people committing suicide is scaling down his cliff top patrols because of criticism from rival lifesavers.

Keith Lane, 57, has patrolled Beachy Head, East Sussex since his wife, Maggie, fell to her death in 2004.

But he said he has been criticised by Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT) for breaking health and safety rules.

BHCT said its members were fully trained and declined to comment on his allegations.

An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into Mrs Lane's death at the notorious suicide spot.

'Precarious position'

Mr Lane, a window cleaner from Eastbourne, began patrolling the cliff soon afterwards.

In September 2004 he was awarded a Royal Humane Society Award for his bravery after he rugby-tackled another woman who was about to jump off the cliff, saving her life.

He said the confrontation, criticism and "abuse" came to a head recently.

Maggie Lane
An inquest into Maggie Lane's death recorded an open verdict

"The last person I saved was about 15ft below the cliff edge - she had slipped over the side to commit suicide and then changed her mind," he told BBC Southern Counties Radio.

"I had to climb down to get her and then link arms with her and pull her back up.

"We were both in a very precarious position and they told me I could have killed her.

"Can you believe that?"

He admitted it would be less risky to wait for professional rescuers but said there was no time.

"If I had waited for the authorities it would have been 15-20 minutes before they attempted a rescue and she had probably two minutes before she slipped off the edge," he said.

Mr Lane said he used to patrol the cliff top two or three times a day.

"Now I am having to scale it down because I don't like the confrontations," he said.

"I feel that health and safety generally has got in the way of all sorts of things - people like me must be encouraged to help people."

Distressed people

BHCT, which is funded by donations, says it works closely with the emergency services and the Coastguard and operates more than 100 hours of patrols at Beachy Head every week.

"The team has been built up over three years and involves 18 fully trained frontline personnel, backed up by aftercare services," it said in a statement.

"We have been involved in over 1,200 searches and incidents and have assisted over 400 vulnerable persons in distress.

"We have also found it very necessary to keep a low profile in both the local and national media as any mention of Beachy Head tends to attract distressed people to the area."

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22 Sep 04 |  Southern Counties
Grieving man stops suicide woman
22 Sep 04 |  Southern Counties
Patrols begin at suicide cliffs
22 Aug 04 |  Southern Counties
On the edge with cliff rescue
09 Feb 04 |  Southern Counties
In pictures: A cliff rescue
09 Feb 04 |  Photo Gallery

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