LONDON — Tributes have been flooding in for a Japanese woman and her British husband who committed suicide following the death of their profoundly disabled son.
Friends and strangers have been inundating a Web site set up by Kazumi Puttick and her husband, Neil, with condolences. The site had been used to raise money for their quadriplegic son, Samuel, 5.
The Putticks leaped together Sunday evening off a 160-meter-high cliff on Britain’s south coast. They were carrying a rucksack holding the body of their son, who died from meningitis on May 29.
Hundreds of messages have been left on the family Web site. The postings are nearly all sympathetic and include comments from many parents who have also lost children and experienced similar feelings of despair.
Kazumi Puttick, 44, and her husband, 34, decided to end their lives at the notorious suicide spot of Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. What makes this case highly unusual is that it involved a family.
Some have speculated that it has echoes of “shinju,” the Japanese tradition of group suicide in which those bound together by love choose to remain together in death.
Friends and family are said to be shocked at the news. Some believe the couple were so devastated at the death of the son, whom they doted upon and supported continuously, that they decided life was no longer worth living.
Hugh Huddy, a close friend, told the BBC: “We remember them as happy and amazingly positive with Sam. They gave him a normal life which, considering his condition, was an amazing achievement.”
The couple first met at a university in Britain and married 12 years ago. They started their married life in a picturesque Wiltshire village, about 150 km west of London.
Neighbors have described them as happily married and doting parents to Samuel, who was born five years ago.
Then, in 2005, their idyllic life came to an end when they were involved in a car accident that was not their fault.
Kazumi Puttick, who was at the time working as a translator for Honda UK, broke her legs in the accident but her son, then 18 months old, suffered serious spinal injuries in the crash.
Using compensation money, the family moved into a bigger home nearby that had equipment to make it easier for their son to live.
Both gave up their jobs to look after their son, as well as receiving daily visits from nurses. Huddy recalls that the couple effectively “retreated” to focus everything on their son and provide him with round-the-clock care.
Their son was unable to breathe unaided and had to be given oxygen. His mental capacity was not affected by the accident, and he got about in a wheelchair that he directed by blowing through an air tube.
On a Web site, the Putticks said they were “devastated” following the accident, but said they were “overwhelmed” by how “strong” and “brave” their son was.
But the family’s world came shattering around them on May 26 when their son contracted meningitis.
They had only recently returned from a two-week trip to Japan to see Kazumi Puttick’s parents.
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