A 17 year old boy who threw himself off the roof of a shopping centre in Derby last week as some of the crowd gathered to watch goaded him to jump was gay.

In a three hour standoff in the city centre, Shaun Dykes spoke at length to police officers last Saturday before plunging 60ft to his death.

Eyewitness Alasdair Kay told the BBC’s Today programme: “I was shopping with my family and couldn’t work out why it was taking so long to get out of the car park… (but) as soon as I came out I saw a young lad at the top of the parapet at the shopping centre.

“People were filming… we could hear people shouting “jump you…” followed by a stream of expletives.

“They weren’t all just young people, some were middle-aged. To be honest with you I was sickened.”

Derbyshire’s Chief Constable Mick Creedon has confirmed that members of the public encouraged the teenager to kill himself. Some filmed the event and posted it on the internet.

Pictures of him standing on top of the railings before his death also appeared in the Daily Mail.

It is thought up to 300 people gathered below the shopping centre where Mr Dykes was perched on railings. Some brought their children to watch.

He paid tribute to his officers who tried to help Mr Dykes.

“The fact that they were unsuccessful in negotiating Shaun to safety will have been very painful for them, particularly for the two officers who spent two hours talking directly to him.

“Whilst we are very used to dealing with incidents like this, this was unusual with members of the public videoing, taking photographs and even shouting for Shaun to jump; pictures have even been posted on the Internet after the event.

“All my experience and belief in the good in people tells me that the vast majority of the crowd who watched the events unfold were wishing for the best result, hoping that Shaun remained safe and well.

“However, all of us associated with the Force see the actions of that small minority who were encouraging Shaun to take his own life as totally abhorrent – it disgusts me to think of their motivation and their lack of compassion towards a fellow human being obviously in distress.

“I know people are asking why these irresponsible idiots weren’t arrested at the time, but I ask the public to understand that the few available officers at the scene were doing their best to manage a difficult situation so as to allow trained staff to talk to Shaun.

“They should not have to deal with the extra distraction of the deviant and ghoulish behaviour of a few, and if arrests had been made this would have necessitated perhaps two officers leaving the scene for every person arrested.”

It is not known why Mr Dykes, who was openly gay, took his own life. He left a suicide note and was thought to be upset after the breakdown of a relationship. His friends paid tribute to him.

“He was always smiling and laughing about stuff. I think if it wasn’t for the crowd, Shaun would have got down and got some help from all his mates, work colleagues and the police,” his workmate Craig told the BBC.

School friend Rebkha Minkley, added: “He was the best person anyone could have asked to meet. He always came in, in the morning with a smile on his face.”

His friends at the pub where he used to work have started an online petition to get safety netting installed around the edge of the Westfield shopping centre to try to prevent similar incidents.