• The Guardian

BREAKING: Outrage over inquest accidental death by drowning verdict of 12-year Shukri Yahya Abdi

A coroner has concluded that a 12-year-old schoolgirl’s death by drowning was an accident.

The body of Shukri Abdi, who first came to the UK in January 2017, was found in the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, on 27 June 2019. A group of children were with her at the river in the period before she died. Shukri’s mother, Zamzam Arab Ture, had hoped that the coroner would rule that Shukri had been unlawfully killed.

The inquest, which opened earlier this year and was adjourned, resumed on last Wednesday at Rochdale coroner’s court. The children connected with the case can be referred to only as Child One, Child Two, Child Three and Child Four. Child One, who said she pushed Shukri, did not give evidence directly, as other children who witnessed the incident did via video link at an inquest hearing in February.

Joanne Kearsley, the senior coroner for Manchester North, who is presiding over the hearing, read out the child’s witness statement. A video of a police interview with the child was played in court, and a written statement from her personal tutor was read out. In the evidence, Child One said of Shukri: “She was holding my legs at the back. I pushed her, I accidentally pushed her to the deep end. I couldn’t swim like that, I pushed her.

“She thought she could swim but didn’t know how to swim. She got into the water next to me. She was grabbing my hand. Something happened, she went down in the water to get back up, she didn’t make it. We were calling to Shukri to get up. She didn’t get up. We were all crying and shouting. She’s like really small. We were panicking. We were like: no, this cannot happen.”

A statement from Gillian Fenton, a paramedic with North West ambulance service who attended the scene after a 999 call was made and saw the four children on the riverbank, said:

“No one appeared to be crying or in any state of distress.”

She said no one appeared to be wet and she wondered if anyone had made any attempt to rescue Shukri. After Shukri’s death, Child One’s school organised a home tutor for her. David Stockdale assisted her mainly with maths and English. “She was caring and compassionate,” he said in a statement read out in court.

He said her social skills were limited and on one occasion she had tried to squirt him with water. He referred to an incident involving biscuits, saying Child One had told him: “You better not eat them all or I’ll kill you.”

His statement said: “I cannot stress enough how lovely, enjoyable and amazing it was to work with Child One. She has been dehumanised undeservedly. I feel it’s really important for Child One to have stability and feel that people care about her. She has lost part of her childhood.”

DI Andrew Naismith, of Greater Manchester police, told the court on Wednesday: “There was nothing either of a criminal nature or anything untoward that happened to Shukri when she entered the water.”

Shukri came to the UK with her mother and four siblings after they fled conflict in Somalia. She was born and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya. The family were brought to the UK as part of the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme in which refugees are vetted by the UN. Only the most vulnerable individuals and families are accepted on to the scheme.

Speaking after the inquest, her mother said the fight for her daughter would continue.

“I feel so bad today with this decision. I have waited a long time for justice and I know justice will come.”

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