Girl ‘pushed’ drowned schoolgirl, 12, as they swam in river to ‘save herself’

Girl ‘pushed’ drowned schoolgirl, 12, as they swam in river to ‘save herself’

A girl told police she ‘pushed’ drowned schoolgirl Shukri Yahye Abdi after she grabbed her legs as they swam in the River Irwell, saying ‘I had to save myself’.

Shukri, 12, died after going into the river in Bury during a heatwave in June 2019.

On Wednesday an inquest into her death heard evidence from the girl who was with her in the water in the moments before she drowned.

For legal reasons she is referred to as Child One.

The inquest was shown a recording of a police interview with Child One which took place on June 28 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.

“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 she and another girl, referred to as Child Two, started laughing.

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

She added: “None of us knew this was going to happen. We were going to go and have fun. I cannot believe it happened. I was in shock.

“She was one of our best, best friends. I promise you I am not sure how it happened. This is the worst thing that’s happened. I was crying last night when I found out she had died.”

Previously the inquest, which resumed on Wednesday at Rochdale coroners court having been adjourned since February, had heard allegations that before they went swimming Shukri had been ‘pushed around’ by Child One and Child Two.

The inquest had also heard that as they walked to the river Child One had joked she would ‘kill’ Shukri if she didn’t get in the water.

Giving evidence on Wednesday Det Insp Andy Naismith, the senior investigating officer, said police had carried out an extensive investigation, which went further than a case of this nature might normally.

He said videos and photos of the three girls taken on the day of Shukri’s death, which had been downloaded from the girls’ phones, appeared to show them ‘fairly happy and at ease with each other’.

Asked if there was anything on the phones to suggest Shukri was being ‘pressured to be with the group’, Det Insp Naismith replied: “No, nothing at all. There was nothing at any point that gave me concern that Shukri had been pressured or made to go to the river.”

He added: “Ultimately there was nothing from my point of view that would suggest there was anything of a criminal nature or that anything untoward happened to Shukri before she entered the water.”

Earlier the inquest also heard a statement from Jillian Fentem, a paramedic who was one of the first emergency services personnel on the scene.

She said she initially thought the call could have been a hoax because of the ‘calm nature of the girls’.

“No-one appeared to be crying or in a state of distress,” she said.

A teacher who gave one-to-one tuition to Child One in the months after Shukri’s death described her a ‘bubbly and energetic’, and said he ‘loved working with her’.

He said towards the end of their time together Child One confided in him that she was suffering night terrors as a result of Shukri’s death.

He said: “She told me she couldn’t get the images out of her head. She wished she could have saved her.”

In his submission to the coroner Ashley Underwood, representing Shukri’s family, argued that Child One had a duty of care to Shukri.

That was because, Mr Underwood said, Child One knew Shukri couldn’t swim and had told her she would look after her when they went in the river.

Mr Underwood said the family wanted to coroner to deliver an unlawful killing conclusion, saying the ‘lowest threshold’ is gross negligence manslaughter.