Death of Shukri Abdi, 12, in Bury river an accident, says coroner

Shukri Abdi.

Shukri Abdi was found dead in June 2019. Photograph: MEN MediaDiane TaylorFri 4 Dec 2020 12.56 EST

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.

However, Joanne Kearsley, the senior coroner for north Manchester, said that the evidence heard during the inquest did not support that conclusion.

The family’s legal team say they are considering judicially reviewing the coroner’s conclusion.

Speaking after the inquest, Ture 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.”

The children connected with the case can be referred to only as Child One, Child Two, Child Three, Child Four and Child Five.

The actions of Child One were closely scrutinised during the inquest as she encouraged Shukri to get into the water and promised to teach her how to swim.

“There is absolutely no evidence before the court that Child One had any intention to kill Shukri,” the coroner said. She also rejected claims that anyone had pushed Shukri into the water.

However in a 37-page ruling on Friday, the coroner said that Child One should have recognised the risk of death to Shukri once they were in deep water and Shukri was relying on her to stay afloat. She rejected claims that Child One had not led Shukri into deep water.

“I am satisfied that Child One’s breach of duty caused or made a significant contribution to Shukri’s death,” she said.

The coroner identified two moments on the day of Shukri’s death where she was reluctant to go with Child One and Child Two to the river but was persuaded to accompany them.

She found Shukri was subjected to peer pressure, particularly by Child One on the first occasion. Although when Shukri did get into the river she found her to be a “willing participant”.

The coroner said that on the balance of probabilities, Shukri’s death was accidental. She said the child Shukri entered the water with was aware Shukri could not swim. In an area of deeper water that child started to swim underwater and Shukri panicked, the other child struggled to swim and probably pushed Shukri off, at which point Shukri went under water.

The coroner said she planned to write to the chief constable of Greater Manchester recommending a commendation for two of the children – Child Three and Child Four, who tried to save Shukri’s life.

Shukri’s mother complained to the Independent Office for Police Conduct about police failures to investigate the case adequately.

The IOPC’s 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 procedures.”

Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, who represented Shukri’s family, said the coroner had accepted many of the points made by the family’s legal team but that in the light of the coroner’s conclusion that Shukri’s death was accidental they were now considering a judicial review of the ruling.

Maz Saleem, of the Justice4Shukri campaign, said: “This campaign was set up to protect and provide immediate support for the family and to fight alongside the legal team to ensure that the truth of Shukri’s death was exposed and to ensure that no family ever has to experience the obstacles this mother had to face simply to get to the truth surrounding her beautiful child’s death.”

A spokesperson for Hazel Wood high school said: “As a school community we were very saddened when we learned of Shukri’s death. Shukri was described by one of her teachers as a joy to have in class and is remembered as a happy and smiling girl at school.

“We note the coroner’s findings that this must have been a traumatising event for all of the children involved – most importantly for Shukri who tragically lost her life whilst with her friends.

“We are comforted that the inquest process has been thorough and welcome the findings that there is no evidence Shukri was pushed into the river, the coroner recognising that there has been unhelpful speculation and rumour about this.

“Our thoughts remain with Shukri’s family and we continue to extend our condolences to everyone who knew her.”

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The body of Shukri Abdi was found in the River Irwell in Bury in June 2019.

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