Family of London firefighter who killed himself demand apology

Jaden Francois-Esprit, a trainee who died aged 21, had described bullying and racism at his Wembley station

The family of a trainee firefighter who killed himself two years ago has called on London fire brigade to issue a public apology for “multiple failings” they believe played a part in his death.

On the second anniversary of Jaden Francois-Esprit’s death on Friday, Francois-Esprit’s mother, Linda Francois, an NHS worker, 55, has called for major changes to the fire service to prevent similar tragedies.

The fire service has conducted an internal investigation following his death, which is understood to have made 24 separate recommendations for change. A second wide-ranging investigation is due to be published in November, looking at broader issues of the culture within the fire brigade.

In her first interview since the death of her son, who died just three weeks after his 21st birthday, she told the Guardian that Francois-Esprit had raised a range of concerns about what he believed to be bullying, harassment and racism at the Wembley fire station where he worked.

Francois said: “I never imagined a future where Jaden would not be present in our lives. Myself, his siblings, our family and friends are devastated by his passing and we struggle to function daily knowing we will never see our beautiful Jaden again.”

He was proud to have been accepted into the London fire brigade as a new recruit at the age of 19 and was excited about embarking on a career as a firefighter.

He had dyslexia, a condition he had flagged to the fire service at the recruitment stage and on several subsequent occasions. But he told his family he was not receiving appropriate support, particularly with completing written tasks.

He had no mental health problems when he entered the fire service, according to his family. But towards the end of his life his mental health had deteriorated sharply. He made 16 transfer requests to work at other stations but these requests were not accepted, and he remained at Wembley where he was increasingly unhappy.

His family say he raised various concerns about his treatment including being teased for eating traditional Caribbean food, given the nickname “lazy boy” which he hated, and being humiliated by reprimands given over the station tannoy.

He was also concerned about not getting adequate support for his dyslexia, an initial decision not to assign him a mentor, and not given a locker for several months.

At his inquest in February 2021 at St Pancras coroner’s court, the senior coroner Mary Hassell rejected what Francois-Esprit had told his family before his death, that he was a victim of bullying and racism at the fire station, and said there was insufficient evidence to link these issues to his suicide.

The coroner did, however, highlight the need for managers to have greater sensitivity towards firefighters’ mental health.

Francois-Esprit provided a statement to the inquest that her son had been singled out at work because he was from an ethnic minority, because he was the youngest firefighter on his watch by several years and because of his dyslexia, all concerns her son had repeatedly raised with her.

Following the inquest, the London fire brigade commissioner, Andy Roe, announced an independent review into the culture of LFB which is due to be published in November. He said that a culture of casual racism and misogyny remained so prevalent in some pockets of the LFB that his own mixed heritage daughter might not be treated with “dignity and respect” at some fire stations.

Francois said she wanted to see greater accountability from LFB managers, for staff to feel able to raise the alarm without fear of reprisal and for mandatory learning support and education for managers to help them support people with conditions like dyslexia. She asked why managers had failed to keep her son safe at work despite family members alerting managers at the fire station to their concerns for Francois-Esprit.

“The London fire commissioner has made a commitment to make change as a legacy to Jaden. To enable that change we must first acknowledge the failings that have occurred,” she said.

“Jaden kept saying to us: ‘I’m not getting the support I need.’ We expect an apology for the multiple failures Jaden experienced. We want organisational change in Jaden’s honour so no other employee experiences the trauma which led a healthy vibrant passionate young man at the prime of his life to experience a mental health crisis and untimely death.”

Roe said: “The thoughts of all at the brigade are with the family and friends of firefighter Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit on the anniversary of his death. It is clear that not enough was done to support Jaden during his time at London fire brigade.

“Shortly after Jaden’s death an internal investigation set out 24 recommendations and a further seven were added following the coroner’s prevention of future deaths report. As of today, 28 of the 31 recommendations have been completed, including the setting up of an independent culture review, chaired by Nazir Afzal OBE, which is due to publish its findings in November.

“I would like to reassure the public that bullying, discrimination and harassment is not acceptable in the brigade. We take all allegations of bullying seriously and have strict policies in place, which all staff are expected to adhere to.”

  • In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or by email at or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp