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Refugee girl’s drowning ‘was an accident’ rules coroner

25th Dec 2020
Refugee girl’s drowning ‘was an accident’ rules coroner

Protesters demanding justice for death of Shukri Abdi, march through central London, on June 27. (Credit: Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The death of a Somali refugee schoolgirl who drowned in a river in Bury was an accident the coroner into her death ruled on December 4.

Shukri Yahye-Abdi, who came to the UK with her family in 2017 from a refugee camp in Kenya, died after entering the River Irwell on June 27 last year while with another child.

Coroner Joanne Kearsley said there was “no evidence whatsoever” to suggest that the 12-year-old was pushed into the river. She added that claims she had been bullied were “totally incorrect.”
Shukri’s mother Zam Zam Ture said the verdict had not brought “justice” for her daughter.

Following the inquest, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it did not find evidence to indicate Shukri’s family were treated less favourably by police because of their ethnic background. The child’s family insist she was pushed into the river by her school bully.

Her school later said it would review its anti-bullying policy amid concerns raised in the community. Kearlsey said there was no evidence of racist bullying by other children and such claims were “simply rumours and unhelpful speculation.”
She said Shukri had gone into the river while holding hands with ‘Child One’ and moved into deeper water after she was told she would be taught to swim.

Kearlsey said, “Child One was naive, she was foolish, she thought she could teach Shukri to swim and this ill-considered act went badly wrong. She did not force Shukri into the water, she did not undertake any actions with the explicit intention of causing her harm. She was in unfamiliar water the dangers of which I am satisfied were not fully appreciated.”

She concluded, “At its highest this was a serious error of judgment. I am not satisfied applying the facts I have found to the law that a conclusion of unlawful killing is made out, so cannot return such a conclusion. The appropriate conclusion for me to return is that Shukri Yahye Abdi has, on the balance of probabilities, died as a result of an accidental death.”

Family will seek judicial review

Speaking at a press conference afterwards, representatives for Shukri’s family announced they would be seeking a judicial review and would be taking legal action against the police.

Ture said she felt “so bad today” as she had waited a “long time for justice.”
“I know what happened to my daughter. I know today I don’t have justice, but the justice is coming,” she added.

She had previously claimed institutional racism within Greater Manchester Police (GMP) meant officers failed to carry out a full investigation into her daughter’s death.
The IOPC said there was “insufficient evidence on which a case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct for any of the individual officers could be found. Therefore, the complaints against GMP are not upheld,” an IOPC spokeswoman said.

The IOPC’s final report said GMP officers had reached the river within three minutes of receiving the report about Shukri being in trouble and taken witness accounts “almost immediately.” It said officers had visited her school the following day and “added relevant information concerning bullying to their investigation.”

It added that GMP had “promptly brought in translation services”, and a family liaison officer had communicated with Shukri’s family throughout. IOPC Regional Director, Amanda Rowe, said the complaints received following the 12-year-old’s death “were treated with the utmost seriousness and very carefully assessed against the evidence available to us.”

“I am satisfied that [GMP’s investigation] was carried out in line with national and local policies and procedures,” she said.

She added that while “nothing we can do or say will bring Shukri back”, she hoped the IOPC’s work could give her family “the clarity and facts they had rightly sought.”
In the aftermath of the 12-year-old’s death, more than a million people signed a petition about the case, calling for “justice for Shukri” and thousands of people attended events marking the anniversary of her death.

Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana voiced her support for the family. Tweeting, ‘I send my love & solidarity to the family of Shukri Abdi. Serious questions remain around Shukri’s death & how it was handled by the authorities. I understand the family are considering further legal action. I wholly support their campaign for justice.’

Fellow Labour MP Apsana Begum also said ‘there are still questions to be answered.’The Poplar and Limehouse MP tweeted: “The racial discrimination and Islamophobia experienced by Shukri and her family remain unaddressed. As does the systemic failures and concerns over structural racism that surround Shukri’s death – from questions about the way the bullying was dealt with to the way Shukri’s death was investigated.”


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