Shukri Abdi: Death Of 12-Year-Old In River Was An Accident, Coroner Rules

Abdi's family believe Islamophobia and racism played a part in the police's response to their daughter's drowning in Bury.
Shukri Abdi
Shukri Abdi

The drowning of a 12-year-old in a river in Bury has been ruled accidental by a coroner, more than a year after her death.

The body of Shukri Abdi, who came to the UK as a refugee with her family, was recovered by underwater search teams from the River Irwell in Greater Manchester on June 27, 2019.

According to the Justice for Shukri Abdi campaign, her family are now “considering legal action against the police” for alleged failures in “properly investigating” her death.

On Friday, Joanne Kearsley, senior coroner for Manchester North, said Abdi got into the water on a warm evening with another girl, “following some encouragement”.

The other child was aware Abdi could not swim, and would therefore be reliant on her to stay afloat, she said. Both went to an area of the water that was deeper and at some point the other girl 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. Shukri went under the water and drowned.”

The coroner said both Shukri and the other child, referred to as Child 1, had joined other youngsters in visiting the river on the warm, sunny evening.

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

The inquest 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 it was said in a laughing and joking manner.

The coroner found the remark was not made with any malice or intent, but “very much 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”.

Kearsley went on: “The fact is, there is absolutely no evidence before the court that Child 1 had any intention to kill Shukri.

“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.”

But 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.

However her actions fell far short of a flagrant breach in which her actions could amount to gross negligence manslaughter, she added.

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.

“At its highest this was a serious error of judgement. I am sure the ramification of June 27, 2019, will be felt by many for a long time.”

Abdi’s family have previously accused Greater Manchester Police of racism, claiming that they were treated differently from other victims due to their race.

It was announced in August 2019 that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) had begun an investigation following a complaint about police actions following her death.

Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham said earlier in June that he would “look into” Abdi’s case, telling BBC Asian Network that he had received 6,000 emails about her death and the subsequent handling of the incident.

Abdi’s family released a statement on Friday, through the Justice for Shukri Abdi campaign, in which they said: “The coroner released her verdict of accidental death. [It] brings to a close a painful chapter for the family, one which has been made even more painful due to the failure of all the institutions that were meant to protect Shukri.

“Seventeen months ago, this campaign was created in the wake of the tragic death of Shukri. Since then her mother Zamzam and her family have faced what can only be described as a never-ending nightmare as she demanded answers and the truth of her beloved daughter’s last moments on this earth.”

They added: “Institutional racism, Islamophobia, the demonisation of refugees and migrants continues to this day.

“We ask everyone to carry forward the determination and strength Zamzam and her family have shown in the struggle against these injustices, and this time, when we demand action, we must persist because no family should ever have to go through this ever again.”


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