Missing sprinter from Sierra Leone sleeping rough in London

A sprinter from Sierra Leone, who disappeared after competing in last year’s Commonwealth Games, talks about sleeping rough in London and how he has tried to take his own life.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (MARCH 11, 2015) (UK POOL) – A sprinter from Sierra Leone, who disappeared after competing in last year’s Commonwealth Games, has been sleeping rough in London, afraid to return home because of the Ebola virus.

Jimmy Thoronka raced in the 4×100 meters relay in Glasgow but disappeared at the end of the competition in August.

He failed to return to Sierra Leone after discovering that several members of his family had been killed by the deadly virus.

“I was here, homeless, no place to sleep, nowhere to go, no food, I went to people to help me, ask people for a pound for me to get food. When I get the pound, I’d go to the chips shop and get some chips there, that’s how I was living. Because, it was really bad for me,” said Thoronka in an interview in central London on Wednesday (March 11).

The athlete said he had tried to take his own life.

“Some days, I thought I’d kill myself, so I’d go to the pound shop, if I got some pounds, buy some paracetamol, and I’d take like four or five paracetamol for me to just be harming myself,” said Thoronka.

After the Games, he wanted to go to London but his passport and money were stolen and he was afraid to go the police in case he was arrested, press reports said. Since reaching London, he had been sleeping rough.

Richard Dent, a student at Cambridge University, set up an online fundraising appeal for the 20-year-old sprinter on hearing of his plight, although he did not know him.

Thoronka said he was delighted to hear about the wave of public support. By Monday the campaign had raised more than 23,000 pounds ($34,000) in just three days.

“When I hear that people are coming up to help, supporting me for me to continue my athletics career here, my sprinting career, I really feel excited because my dream could come true, to start my training here, I feel great. If I start my training here, if they told me tomorrow you will start your training, I would be one of happiest persons in the world, it would be great for me,” he said.

It was not clear whether Thoronka would be allowed to stay in Britain.

A spokeswoman for Asylum Aid, a London-based charity, said she was pessimistic about Thoronka receiving adequate support from the British immigration system.

Thoronka was running times of 10.58 seconds for the 100 metres sprint before the Games in Glasgow, where he competed in the 4×100 metres relay but did not win a medal.