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Stowaway in 'search of a better life' died after falling from plane’s undercarriage


The stowaway fell from the undercarriage of a plane flying over London

The stowaway fell from the undercarriage of a plane flying over London

The stowaway fell from the undercarriage of a plane flying over London

A MAN who died after plummeting from the undercarriage of a plane flying over London had a "desire to travel to Europe for a better life", an inquest heard today.

Jose Matada, 26, from Mozambique, suffered massive injuries after falling from the Heathrow-bound flight from Angola on September 9 last year.

His body was found on the pavement of Portman Avenue, Mortlake, in south-west London.

West London Coroner's Court heard the stowaway may have been dead before he hit the ground either because he had been crushed by the retracting landing gear shortly after the plane took off, or because of the extreme cold at high altitude.

Detectives analysed a sim card found in his jeans and contacted the phone numbers that were stored on it in a bid to identify him.

Detective sergeant Jeremy Allsup, from the Metropolitan Police, told the inquest that officers contacted a woman in Switzerland who had exchanged text messages with Mr Matada.

The woman, referred to during the hearing as Ms Hunt, told police Mr Matada had worked for her family as a housekeeper and gardener in South Africa and had spoken to her about travelling to Europe.

She told officers that although she had done nothing to facilitate his trip, she knew Mr Matada had "desired to travel to Europe for a better life", Mr Allsup said.

Police had originally thought Mr Matada, also known as Youssouf Matada, was Angolan because of currency found in his pockets.

A post-mortem gave the cause of death as multiple injuries.

Coroner Dr Sean Cummings recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Matada turned 26 on the day he fell, the inquest heard.

He was wearing light clothing and had a tattoo on his left arm with the letters "Z" and "G" clearly visible, the hearing was told.

Residents in Portman Avenue described hearing a "thud" shortly before the British Airways flight was due to land at 7.45am, DS Allsup said.

"The spread of body matter suggested the body had fallen from some height," he added.

The incident was initially treated as a possible violent assault due to the nature of the man's injuries, the hearing was told.

Forensic pathologist Dr Robert Chapman told the inquest that Mr Matada had suffered "very severe injuries", particularly to his head.

There was damage to his skull and brain, fractures to his spine, pelvis, left arm and right shin and various other marks and injuries, he added.

Dr Chapman said the extremely low temperatures of between minus 50C (minus 58F) and minus 60C (minus 76F), the lack of oxygen at high altitude and the dangers of the plane's retracting landing gear may have caused Mr Matada's death before his body hit the ground.

"The man was either very close to the point of death or dead before the time he struck the ground," he said.

Dr Chapman said he had only dealt with two previous incidents of stowaways falling from planes in his career.

Returning his verdict, Dr Cummings said: "My conclusion is that Jose Matada died as a result of an accident.

Online Editors