The colleagues of a junior firefighter who took his own life did not think he was being bullied, an inquest has heard.
Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21, was found hanged at his home in Wapping, east London, in August 2020 despite no previous history of mental health issues.
The inquest heard the firefighter felt he was being bullied and treated unfairly at Wembley Fire Station in north London where he was singled out in group tasks and teased for eating Caribbean food.
But colleagues today claimed Mr Francois-Esprit had been frustrated in his job and had never confided in them about being bullied.
Lewis Gunn, a lead firefighter at Wembley, said: ‘I knew he didn’t feel like we were busy enough, I think that’s a realisation that every firefighter comes to after going through training.’
Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21, who was stationed at Wembley Fire Station in north London, died at his home Wapping, east London, in August 2020
He said he was unaware that Mr Francois-Esprit had reported finding him hard to approach, adding: ‘I felt that the interactions we had were genuinely quite pleasant.’
Mr Gunn said he was also unaware that Mr Francois-Esprit struggled with dyslexia, but said he had noticed he had become more withdrawn in the months before he died.
He said he had had a word with him when Mr Francois-Esprit had snapped ‘What now?’ after he asked him to help clean the station mess.
‘I asked him if he was happy in the job and if he was happy at the station – he didn’t seem that happy,’ Mr Gunn said.
Sean Nunkoosing, a colleague of Mr Francois-Esprit, also knew he was frustrated in the job but said he had never confided in him about being bullied.
‘He was quite a shy character, but when he got to know someone he would warm up to them,’ Mr Nunkoosing said.
‘I got to know him and it was obvious he had a really good sense of humour. He was a polite young man, personable – just a really nice person.’
He added: ‘He never said he was unhappy at work – he used the word ”bored”. I could infer from our conversation that he wasn’t as happy as he might have been in another job.’
Mr Nunkoosing went on: ‘I wouldn’t say he was being bullied – I would say that’s too strong a word to describe his time at Wembley, but that’s only my opinion.
An inquest previously heard that Wembley Green Watch had about 22 members at the time and Mr Francois-Esprit was the youngest
‘Probably everyone who has ever been in a workplace probably feels like they’ve been singled out in some way or another and feels like they could have been dealt with a bit more positively.’
Mr Nunkoosing said Mr Francois-Esprit had continued applying to the London Ambulance Service because it was a busier job, but feared he would not pass the exams.
A friend who trained with the young firefighter but was posted to a different station said Mr Francois-Esprit had asked him about his training and the procedures where he worked.
Mr Ivarsson said his friend was concerned that his monthly development meetings were not taking place, and he was not being given the support he needed to complete his development book.
He said Mr Francois-Esprit also felt he was being given too much to do without support, such as undertaking the inventory check for five fire engines alone on every shift.
In his statement, Mr Ivarsson said: ‘Jaden expressed to me that he felt he was being treated unfairly and that he felt he was being bullied.
‘He told me he was left alone to undertake tasks at the station without being told what to do.
Mr Francois-Esprit (pictured left with his brother Kairo) had made 16 transfer requests to four different stations in London between February and August 2020, an inquest heard
‘Jaden told me that he felt he was being teased about his food. To my understanding, the teasing related to his cultural background.
‘He also told me that he had made 19 transfer requests and that he loved his job but hated his Watch.
‘Officers at the station should have realised he was desperate to move station. Jaden told me he was being called things like ”lazy boy” which he did not like.
‘As an organisation, I believe that the LFB have failed in giving Jaden the right support.
‘There were indications that he was not happy with his station. As an organisation, I believe they should have a closer watch on their recruits.’
The inquest previously heard that Wembley Green Watch had about 22 members at the time and Mr Francois-Esprit was the youngest by about seven years.
He had made 16 transfer requests to four different stations in London between February and August 2020, but knew his request was unlikely to be granted until he had completed his workbook.
The process would probably have taken him about eight months.
A post-mortem recorded Mr Francois-Esprit’s cause of death as suspension.
The inquest continues.
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