Simone Burns: Human rights lawyer ‘devastated’ by viral aeroplane video dies after Eastbourne cliff fall

HM Coastguard
HM Coastguard

A human rights lawyer, who felt she was a ‘victim of social media’ after a video of her racially abusing Air India cabin crew went viral, fell from Beachy Head days after her release from prison.

Simone Burns, 50, from First Avenue in Hove, took her life on June 1 after mobile footage was captured of her being drunk and disorderly on a flight from Mumbai to London in 2018, an inquest at Eastbourne heard today (Thursday).

Miss Burns’ family said in a statement, “Simone was a highly intelligent, independent individual.

“She was a victim of social media. She was devastated and mortified at her trial that she might get a custodial sentence.

“She seemed traumatised about her experience in prison and terrified about the prospect of being sent back.

“We believe the final trigger was a complaint to the Bar Standards Board by a man who said she should be struck off as her profession was in disrepute. She felt there was no future for her.”

The family told the inquest Miss Burns struggled to cope with the ‘relentless’ online abuse while at the same time having nose cancer.

The family said, “She had mounting stress because of the cancer on her nose. She took off to Belfast and went to hospital convinced she was having a stroke.

“The mental health team said she was suffering paranoid delusions. The GP said she was of sound mind. In our view, an opportunity to help her was missed.

Miss Burns was sentenced to six months in prison for being drunk on an aircraft and spitting at a member of the cabin crew. Her behaviour was condemned by the judge as “obnoxious” and “abusive”.

Catherine Bickerstaff, Miss Burns’ probation officer, said in a statement, “Simone said she was devastated to watch herself acting the way she did.

“She asked if she could sell her flat and move away to Ireland. She felt she needed to get away from the media. She expressed concerns the media might be outside her flat.”

The probation officer said Miss Burns said she only drank a couple of glasses of wine on board and did not remember much after that. Miss Bickerstaff said, “Her life’s work was ruined. She could not see her future. She was disappointed in colleagues and how they had turned their back to her.”

However, the officer said she had no concerns with Miss Burns’ wellbeing.

DS Nick Green told the inquest there was no evidence to indicate any third party involvement.

Coroner Alan Craze said, “It is one hundred per cent certain she took her own life.”

The coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide.