Synagogue treasurer who fell to his death was 'severely anxious'

By Marcus Dysch and Tristan Kirk, August 9, 2012

A synagogue treasurer who died after falling from an office window had been struggling with severe mental health problems.

Jack Shemtob, who was 53, fell from the sixth floor of the Transport for London (TfL) offices where he worked in south-east London.

An assistant treasurer at the Neveh Shalom community in Harrow, Middlesex, Mr Shemtob had been receiving mental health treatment for around 18 months before his death last November and had spent time in a specialist unit at Watford General Hospital in January 2011.

While receiving treatment in Watford, Mr Shemtob stopped breathing after swallowing a deodorant can lid and spent time in intensive care. On other occasions he had bitten into glass and self-harmed.

He had also asked a doctor what would be the best method to kill himself.

After taking pills in his Rickmansworth home, Mr Shemtob was given drugs to treat depression and psychotic impulses. His brother Sam said that Jack Shemtob’s strange behaviour was exacerbated by news he was due to be made redundant.

TfL bosses were so concerned about Mr Shemtob’s health that they monitored his behaviour and security guards were asked to watch his movements around the building.

Sam Shemtob said: “Until the age of 50, my brother was a fully active member of society. He was involved in his local sports clubs and the synagogue.

“Jack was very ill in the last few years, but until that point he had enjoyed a full and normal life.”

An inquest at Southwark Coroners’ Court last week recorded a narrative verdict of death by jumping from height while suffering mental health symptoms.

Coroner Sarah Ormond-Walsh said Mr Shemtob was “a severely anxious man, and despite accepting all the help that he could from family and mental health professionals, he was considerably worked up preceding his death”.

The inquest was also told Mr Shemtob had been restricted from accessing the upper floors of the TfL building, but this information was not passed on to some of the staff in the building.

A TfL spokeswoman said: “We note the coroner’s verdict. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Shemtob.”

Last updated: 12:53pm, August 14 2012