• Mother Donna Oettinger and her son Zackary, three, both killed in tragedy
  • Incident happened at Riddlesdown rail station in Purley, Croydon
  • She jumped in front of train and ‘dragged’ son, nicknamed ‘Zaki’, with
    her
  • In months
    before tragedy she wrote on Facebook she had anxiety attacks

By
Suzannah Hills and Martin Robinson

10:25, 22 March 2013


|

20:57, 22 March 2013

A mother killed herself and her toddler son by jumping in front of a rush hour train this morning.

Donna Oettinger, 41, ‘dragged’
her son Zackary, three, by the hand on to the track at Riddlesdown station near Croydon, South London, during rush hour. 

Ms Oettinger, who had been battling depression, walked her child the short distance from their family home where she
carried out the terrible double killing.

Zackary, who was nicknamed Zaki and was adored by neighbours in the quiet suburban street they lived in
just 300 yards from the station, had celebrated his third birthday just a
week ago.

Incident: Donna Oettinger and her three-year-old son Zaki who were both killed by an express train at Riddlesdown Station near Purley, Surrey this morning

Incident: Donna Oettinger and her three-year-old son Zackary, nicknamed
Zaki, are both believed to have been killed at
Riddlesdown Station near Purley, Surrey this morning

It is understood that police were
treating the deaths as a murder and suicide and a full scale search of
Donna’s home was underway as other officers interviewed commuters, who
saw the death scene in the station.

Commuter Paul Camlett, 38, said: ‘I
had just arrived at the station when the station master rounded everyone
up and ordered them off the platform. Everyone was oblivious to what
had happened.

‘A woman screamed “there’s a body on the track”.

‘I’m in complete shock. People were crying. They were in complete shock. The woman who screamed just could not speak.’

Zaki
Zaki

Tragedy: Donna’s child Zaki had just celebrated his third birthday according to neighbours, and was much-loved in their street just 300 metres from the station where they
died

A row of teddy bears remains in the upstairs
window of Donna’s Riddledown home this afternoon as police search the property.

In the months leading up to her death Donna had posted on Facebook
about suffering from panic attacks and severe anxiety.

‘Thank God I have my son Zaki I owe him a lot when I get better love you son with all my heart xxx,’ she wrote in October.

Donna, who worked at Sidcup-based transport firm Transcar Projects, also wrote: ‘So scared don’t know who I am anymore.

‘Feeling so depressed with this f******
severe anxiety dread waking up.

‘Panic attacks all day long can’t stand this anymore.’

She admitted had gone
to her GP who had changed her medication but she told loved-ones they had not been working.

‘I hope and pray there is light at the end of the tunnel,’ she wrote just days before Christmas last year.

She also wrote to friends and family online telling them she had fun with them and would try to ‘remember the good old days’.

Investigation: National Rail has switched off the electrical supply between Woldingham and South Croydon while officers deal with the incident

Scene: The train involved in the incident can be seen at a standstill at Riddlesdown train station near Croydon, South London, as emergency services arrive at the scene

Tragedy: Yellow markers can be seen along the railway track at Riddlesdown station where witnesses claim the woman dragged a child on to the tracks into the path of an oncoming train

Tragedy: Yellow markers can be seen along the railway track at Riddlesdown station where witnesses claim the mother dragged her child on to the tracks into the path of an oncoming train

The London Ambulance Service was called but the woman and child were pronounced dead at the scene

The London Ambulance Service attended Riddlesdown Station but the woman and child were pronounced dead at the scene

Neighbours told how Donna and Zaki lived with her mother, but they said
they had not seen the boy’s father, understood to a Egyptian who was
living abroad.

It was understood police were making contact with him to break news of the deaths of his partner and son.

Named: Donna Oettinger is understood to have killed herself and her son Zaki at Riddlesdown Station this morning

Named: Donna Oettinger is understood to have killed herself and her son Zaki at Riddlesdown Station this morning

The curtains on another of the
bedroom windows remained pulled tightly
shut and there were no cars in the driveway of the white stucco
semi-detached house.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Poor Zaki. I’ve only just moved in but I have seen her a few times, she lived with her mother.

‘Zaki such a sweet little boy. Always so happy.

‘I saw her just yesterday, I’m a childminder and she saw me with two screaming children – she looked at me with pity.

‘She was always rushing around with him.

‘Last time I saw her his blanket was hanging down, I told her because it was getting dirty.

‘It’s a real tragedy. To hear this I’m just in shock.’

Another neighbour said that she would rarely see Donna out and about, and that she seemed to be a very private person.

‘She’d always say hello, but not much more,’ she said.

‘The police have been in and out of the house all morning so we suspected something might have happened.’

Plain-clothed police officers were
stationed outside the house, on a leafy suburban street. A family liaison officer was also helping Donna’s parents to come to terms with their loss.

Neighbours living closer to the train station said that they had seen ambulances, fire engines and police arrive at the scene.

A commuter was also heard screaming ‘there’s a body on the track,’ alerting rail staff to the double
tragedy.

Guards: Police Officers stand outside the home of Donna Oettinger and her young son Zaki, close to the railway station where they died

Guards: Police Officers stand outside the home of Donna Oettinger and her young son Zaki, close to the railway station where they died

Poignant: A row of teddy bears stand in a bedroom window of the house this afternoon as police investigate inside

Poignant: A row of teddy bears stand in a bedroom window of the house this afternoon as police investigate inside

Family: Donna Oettinger, Zaki and the man who is understood to be her former partner and Zaki's father, who neighbours say is Egyptian

Family: Donna Oettinger, Zaki and the man who is understood to be her former partner and Zaki’s father, who neighbours say is Egyptian

Commuters on the train affected were eventually allowed to leave their
compartments at 10am, more than 90 minutes after the incident.

Devastating: Donna Oettinger pictured on holiday in

Devastating: Donna Oettinger is said to have battled depression and anxiety attacks

A British Transport Police (BTP) spokeswoman said:
‘ I can confirm that the woman and child who died at Riddlesdown rail
station today have been named as Donna Oettinger, 41, and her son,
three-year-old Zachary.

‘BTP officers were called to the station after a report that a woman and a child had been struck by a train.

‘The incident was reported to BTP  and was also attended by Metropolitan Police officers.

‘Medics from the London Ambulance Service also attended, but Donna and Zachary were sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

‘The station was closed while officers and medics dealt with the incident.’

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Iain Miller added: ‘Our thoughts remain with Donna and Zachary family and friends at this sad and difficult time.

‘Officers are continuing to work to establish the full circumstances of what happened, although early indications show that no one else was believed to have been involved.

‘A file will be prepared for the Coroner.’

A London Ambulance Service spokeswoman: ‘We were called today
to reports of two people under a train at Riddlesdown railway station.

‘We sent a single responder in a car, an ambulance crew and a duty officer. Sadly, a woman and a child were dead at the scene.’

The station: Police officers on the platform of Riddlesdown station where a woman and child - believed to be a three-year-old boy - were killed by a rush hour train this morning

The station: Police officers walk along the platform of Riddlesdown station where a mother and her three-year-old son were killed by a rush hour train this morning

One witness said: ‘She jumped pulling the kid with her. The driver said she dragged the kid with her as she jumped in front of the train.

‘He is pretty shook up as you can
imagine. Anyone would be. He is speaking to British Transport Police and
then they will send him home.’

Senior Investigating Officer
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor added: ‘Our thoughts remain with
the family and friends of the woman and child involved in this tragic
incident.

‘Officers are continuing to work to
establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident, although
early indications show that no one else was believed to have been
involved.

‘A file will be prepared for the Coroner.’

Closed off: Riddlesdown station has been closed to the public while officers carry out an investigation of the scene

Closed off: Riddlesdown station has been closed to the public while officers carry out an investigation at the scene of the incident

National Rail turned off the electrical
supply to the line between Woldingham and South Croydon to enable crews
to deal with the incident.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: ‘Two people were struck by a train at Riddlesdown station this morning.

‘The line is currently closed and replacement buses are being used.

‘British Transport Police are at the station and we will reopen the railway as soon as possible.

‘Passengers should check National Rail Enquiries before travelling.’

British Transport Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at Riddlesdown station

British Transport Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at Riddlesdown station

Sealed off: Two police officers block the entrance to Riddlesdown Station today as forensic experts investigate the platform and tracks

Sealed off: Two police officers block the entrance to Riddlesdown Station today as forensic experts investigate the platform and tracks

The station, which falls into the
borough of Croydon, was closed and buses are replacing trains between
Purley, Oxted and East Grinstead.

Passengers
are also being warned journey times to and from the stations listed
above, as well as East Grinstead Hurst Green, Upper Warlingham, East
Croydon and London Bridge may be 30 minutes longer than usual.

Southern is advising customers travelling from Sanderstead to use Purley Oaks
station.

First Capital Connect are accepting Southern tickets on the Thameslink services on reasonable routes.

Commuter belt: Riddlesdown Station is situated in Purley, in the borough of Croydon, South London

Commuter belt: Riddlesdown Station is situated in Purley, in the borough of Croydon, South London

 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I don’t know whats happing these days but a lot of very sad news coming out ,a lot of people are so struggling to hang on in these difficult times,may they both rest in peace.

Jack
,

York, United Kingdom,
22/3/2013 20:14

I know it’s difficult when you suffer from mental health problems, to see the wood from the trees, but there must have been something that could be done to help this poor woman. My thoughts are also with those innocent people who became involved such as the train driver and commuters.

stokie
,

stoke-on-Trent. UK,
22/3/2013 20:11

my heart bleeds.God I hope there is a Heaven.What a beautiful boy.Pity parents bring their children with them but DEPRESSION is an AWFUL illness and I think drs have to be aware of this.

sarrac
,

dublin,
22/3/2013 20:09

Poor Train driver and respect to the people who had to clear it up – there’s me thinking my started badly because my car wouldn’t start

Linamarie
,

London, United Kingdom,
22/3/2013 19:54

I am speechless, rip mum and little one, i hope you find your piece in heaven..Tragic.

jan
,

uk, United Kingdom,
22/3/2013 19:52

Tragic to hear of a mother taking her own life in despair and taking the life of her infant son. She must of been so very very poorly to believe that was the only choice she had. I will pray for you both, rest in peace xx

Twinkle toes
,

Oakham,
22/3/2013 19:52

poor lady. cant imagine what she mentally went through to go this far.Rip forever with your little man …

booboo
,

nli,
22/3/2013 19:52

This is beyond tragic, words fail me. I wish Donna could have gotten the help she needed, the world must have looked very dark and deserted to her.

lunaizar
,

Earth,
22/3/2013 19:51

I have been to the darkest places imaginable I have been literally on my knees with the mental pain of trying to deal with depression and anxiety. If you have not suffered you cannot understand it is totally invasive into every area of your life. There is not no let up while in the main stage of it. Nothing makes sense and there is no light. Fear is the main symptom fear of today and fear of tomorrow, fear that you will never feel ‘normal’ again. The exhaustion and confusion you feel is complete and no matter how hard you fight you cannot seem to win. My son’s were 4 and 5 years old when depression hit me like a tidal wave and I so wanted my life to end, so the depression would end, not because I did not want ‘my’ life but because I did not want ‘this’ life. I use to dress my sons and I would shake. I cooked and I had the shakes. All I wanted was to sleep. Yet, even in the darkest of days I never contemplated ending my son’s lives. So I do not understand at all. RIP little fella xx

belblac
,

Hull, United Kingdom,
22/3/2013 19:51

People say it’s the easy way out, but if we think about it, it’s very much the opposite – it’s got to be the hardest thing a person can do. She must have been in a seriously dark place.

Ocean
,

England, United Kingdom,
22/3/2013 19:50

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