Shukri Abdi: Somali refugee girl’s drowning was accidental death, coroner says

The drowning of a Somali girl in a river was an accidental death, a coroner has concluded.

Shukri Abdi’s had been with a group of youngsters at the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, on 27 June last year when she died.

She could not swim and had entered the water “following some encouragement”, according to Joanne Kearsley, senior coroner for Manchester North.

Another child had been with her and this child was aware that she could not swim.

The child, referred to during the inquest as Child 1, was also aware that Shukri was relying on her to stay afloat.

Both of them ventured into deeper water and at some point the other child tried to swim underwater, the coroner said.

She added: “At this point, on the balance of probabilities, a combination of deep water, together with Shukri panicking and the other child struggling to swim, meant that she probably pushed Shukri off.

“Shukri went under the water and drowned.”

Lawyers for Shukri’s family had asked the coroner to consider a verdict of unlawful killing from either an act of murder or gross negligence manslaughter.

The inquest had heard evidence that, while walking to the river, Child 1 had said to Shukri: “You’d better get in the water or I am going to kill you.”

But the coroner said these words were not spoken with malice or intent but “in the context of a child who was keen to go swimming in the water and did not want to be the only one in the water”.

“The fact is, there is absolutely no evidence before the court that Child 1 had any intention to kill Shukri,” Ms Kearsley added.

“At its very highest, the comment made by Child 1, which has been described as a “threat to kill”, is in my judgement, in the context spoken, a phrase used by an exuberant child in the company of her peers.

“To even suggest this case reaches anywhere near the standard required for a court to consider the most serious of offences was misplaced and most unhelpful.”

The coroner did find that Child 1 had breached her duty of care to Shukri, in that a child of similar age and background should have recognised the risk of death to someone who needed her to stay afloat but her actions fell far short of what could amount to gross negligence manslaughter.

Ms Kearsley said: “Child 1 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.”

Shukri was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to live in Bury at the age of 10 with her mother and siblings.

The 12-year-old was described as a “happy, lively, chatty girl”, with her teachers describing her as a “joy to have in class”.

After the hearing, Maz Saleem, spokeswoman for the Justice4Shukri campaign, said the family may seek a judicial review of the inquest’s findings.

She said: “The investigation of Shukri Abdi’s death and subsequent investigations by the school, police and other local authorities have come to represent yet another example of the institutional racism riddled throughout this country.”

Independent Office for Police Conduct regional director Amanda Rowe said: “We found insufficient evidence to suggest that GMP did not conduct a thorough investigation and I am satisfied that it was carried out in line with national and local policies and guidelines.”

She added there was no evidence to indicate Shukri’s family were treated less favourably because of their ethnic background.

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