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After the fall: A death on the Lansdowne Estate

After the fall: A death on the Lansdowne Estate


When a vulnerable woman falls from a tower block, how do you find out what really happened?

Warning: This episode describes domestic abuse and a death by falling.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this podcast, you can contact the charities Womensaid and Refuge.

Why this story?

Last April, I saw a news story about a young woman who’d died after falling from the 13th floor of a Bristol tower block. I’d only just published my podcast “Fallen Women”, about women suffering domestic abuse who fall to their deaths from a height. 

When a woman falls from a tower block, on an estate that has been abandoned by the council, how do you find out what happened? And when everyone thinks she was pushed, but the one person who was with her says she jumped – who do you believe? 

With the police investigation into a suspected homicide still active, I wanted to find out about Shannon Beirne, talk to her boyfriend who was arrested that night, and hear from people living in the tower about what they’d seen and heard. 

Women were falling to their deaths, it seemed to me, remarkably often. Were they careless? Suicidal? Or was something more sinister going on? 

How we got here

We wanted to meet as many of the tower block’s residents as possible, so together with Sean Morrison, the Bristol Cable reporter we’d teamed up with, we flyered the whole building with an invitation to gather one teatime for cake and drinks. Lots of people came, along with their children, and many were kind enough to talk to us about what they knew about Shannon, and her boyfriend Stuart Roberts. They also told us about life in Lansdowne, their worries about crime being rife in the area, and their struggles with the council. 

We then had to wait a long time to publish, because for seven months, Shannon’s boyfriend remained under police investigation: had he been charged with an offence related to Shannon’s death, much of the information we report in this podcast – some of it his account of the fateful night – could have prejudiced a trial. 

I wish we could have reported Shannon’s inquest, but 10 months after her death no date has been set: the coroner’s eventual conclusions will now be the only formal reckoning her family gets about how Shannon died, and why.

Past reporting

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