Drowning of Somali refugee, 12, in Bury river was 'accidental death'

Emily Cleary
·4-min read
Shukri Abdi was 12 years old when she drowned in a river in Bury (MEN Media)
Shukri Abdi was 12 years old when she drowned in a river in Bury (MEN Media)

The drowning of a Somalian schoolgirl in a Greater Manchester river was an accidental death, a coroner has ruled.

Shukri Abdi, aged 12, entered the River Irwell in Bury after 'encouragement' from friends, despite not being able to swim, an inquest heard.

She drowned in the river on 27 June 2019.

The inquest, which opened earlier this year and was adjourned, resumed on Wednesday at Rochdale coroner’s court.

On Friday, Joanne Kearsley, senior coroner for Manchester North, said Shukri entered the water with a 13-year-old girl and did so “following some encouragement”. The other child was aware Shukri could not swim and was reliant on her to stay afloat, she said.

Both went to an area of the water which was deeper and at some point the other child tried to swim underwater, the coroner continued.

Kearsley said: “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.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 27: Protesters holding banners during a Black Lives Matter protest asking for justice for the death of Shukri Abdi, march through central London, United Kingdom on Saturday June 27, 2020. The body of 12-year-old Shukri Abdi was found in the River Irwell in Bury on 27 June, 2019. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Protesters at a Black Lives Matter protest demand justice for Shukri Abdi. The body of the 12-year-old was found in the River Irwell in Bury in June, 2019. (Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Shukri went under the water and drowned.”

Four children connected with the case were referred to only as Child One, Child Two, Child Three and Child Four.

The inquest was shown a recording of a police interview with Child One which took place on 28 June last year, the day after Shukri’s death.

In it Child One described how she and Shukri, a Kenyan-born Somalian refugee who couldn't swim, entered the water together, initially holding hands.

Child One said that as she floated in the water on her stomach Shukri grabbed hold of her legs.

She said: "She was holding me, she was pulling my legs, I pushed her. That’s why I feel it was all my fault.

Shukri came to the UK in January 2017.

The River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, where Shukri Abdi drowned on 27 June 2019
The River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, where Shukri Abdi drowned on 27 June 2019 (reach)

Child One said: "I couldn’t swim like that. I could only swim if she let go. I pushed her and she went sideways.

"She just went down the deep end. She went in the water then just disappeared.

"If I hadn’t let go of her we both would have gone in the deep part and we both would have drowned. I had to save myself."

Child One said she then swam back to the riverbank.

After getting out of the water she initially thought Shukri was messing about and said her and another girl, referred to as Child Two, started laughing.

But then when they realised Shukri was in danger they stopped and called 999.

A statement from Gillian Fenton, a paramedic with North West ambulance service who attended the scene, saw the four children on the riverbank. She said: “No one appeared to be crying or in any state of distress.”

People gather during a demonstration called "Justice for Shukri Abdi" in London, Britain, June 27, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Demonstrations calling for 'Justice for Shukri Abdi' took place across the globe on 27 June, the first anniversary of the 12-year-old's death (REUTERS/Simon Dawson)

She said no one appeared to be wet and she wondered if anyone had made any attempt to rescue Shukri.

Following Shukri’s death, Greater Manchester police initially said they were treating what happened as a “tragic incident” and did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.

On 27 June this year, the first anniversary of Shukri’s death, protests were held worldwide demanding justice for the 12-year-old after Black Lives Matter took on the cause.

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.

She and her 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.

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