‘Oustanding’ headteacher committed suicide after ‘losing confidence’ in her ability

Trains depart Bristol at the station Judith was supposed to leave from
Trains depart Bristol at the station Judith was supposed to leave from

An “outstanding” associate head teacher crouched in front of a train and waited to die because she “lost confidence” in her ability to do her job, an inquest heard.

Talented Judith Bleach, 44, killed herself hours before she was due to attend an interview to complete her headship training.

The married mother-of-two was supposed to board a train from her home city of Bristol to Birmingham.

Trains depart Bristol at the station Judith was supposed to leave from
Trains depart Bristol at the station Judith was supposed to leave from


But she drove away from the station and was later hit by a First Great Western train travelling from Bristol to London at 101mph.

An inquest in Salisbury heard how Mrs Bleach was identified by fingerprints taken from a wardrobe door at her home in West Croft, Bristol.

Executive head teacher Mark Dee, of Parkwall Primary School in Cadbury Heath, Bristol – where Mrs Bleach worked – said she was an “outstanding” teacher.

Many of her pupils were left in tears after hearing about the death and hoards of floral tributes piled up outside the school.

Parkwall Primary School had made significant progress in the few years since Mrs Bleach joined – and achieved a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted shortly before her death.

Mr Dee said: “I had known her for about eight years and she was excellent at her job. She would have made an outstanding head in her own right.

“She worked hard and was popular with staff, pupils and their parents. I saw her on the Monday (the day before her death) and she was a bit nervous about the interview.

“But she would have passed it with flying colours. It was just a formality. There was nothing fundamental (to cause me alarm).”

Judith left two suicide notes in her car, which she left locked with one window open. One of the notes was for Mr Dee and the other for her husband Matthew.

Mr Dee added: “From the tone of the letter it appears that her confidence had gone.

“I do think there were also some personal issues in the background, which contributed to this.”

A map of the spot where Mrs Bleach died on May 22 was also found open in her car.

Her husband Matthew Bleach, 45, a bookkeeper, told the inquest he had no concerns about his wife when she left for her interview.

She had been due to board at train from Bristol Parkway at 9.10am, with her interview – the final part of headship training she started last September – set for 11am.

Mr Bleach said: “She left the house at about 8.20am. She was smartly-dressed and had the papers she needed for the interview with her.”

In a statement, Brian Nugent told how he spotted Mrs Bleach near to the train tracks and sounded his horn.

He said: “I saw a woman walk from left to right. She would have been about seven or eight seconds away. I sounded the horn. She then crouched in a foetal position.”

Mr Nugent applied the brakes of the train, the delayed 11.32 from Bristol Parkway to London, but it was impossible to avoid hitting the talented teacher.

A post mortem examination found that Mrs Bleach suffered multiple head and body injuries after being struck by the train.

Police confirmed that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.

Ian Singleton, assistant deputy coroner for Wiltshire, said Mrs Bleach had intended to take her own life.

He said: “She voluntarily positioned herself on the railway line in a crouching position.

“She collided with a train travelling from Bristol to Swindon at 110mph, a mile from Alderton tunnel in Wiltshire.

“I record that Judith Mary Bleach took her own life.”

Speaking after her death, governor Ed Gillard, whose children Michael, 11, and Matthew, seven, attend the school paid tribute to Mrs Bleach.

He said: “Judith was a wonderful woman and absolutely brilliant at her job. She made it fun for the kids. When kids get bored they don’t want to learn.

“It’s been terribly upsetting for the teachers, pupils and parents – but it’s been a shock more than anything else.”

Verdict: Suicide

  • Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have given warning signs beforehand. These feelings do improve and can be treated. If you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 08457 909090 day or night.


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