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Mother alleges family were racially abused before teenager drowned, inquest told

08 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Christopher Kapessa. Photograph: Family Handout/PA

The mother of a teenage boy who drowned in the River Cynon while playing with friends has detailed the racial abuse her family allegedly suffered before his death, an inquest heard.

Christopher Kapessa, 13, died after allegedly being pushed into the river near Fernhill in Rhondda Cynon Taff on July 1 2019.

Another boy, then aged 14, was seen to push Christopher from a ledge into the water, South Wales Central Coroner’s Court in Pontypridd heard.

Christopher immediately got into difficulty and boys, including the one who pushed him, jumped in to help but the non-swimmer could not be saved.

Abuse

Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph, told the hearing of the abuse her family suffered while living in village of Hirwaun between 2012 and 2018, which they left following a house fire.

She and her seven children had moved to South Wales from London in 2011, first living in Pontypridd before settling in Hirwaun.

“While living in Hirwaun the children especially experienced so much negative and horrific treatment from other members of the community and at times we all felt very isolated because of such treatments,” she said in a written statement read to the court.

“Nevertheless, it was very difficult because the children wanted to play outside of the house and most of the time it ended up bad for my children.”

She recalled one occasion where she alleged Christopher’s older brother, Glody, had been assaulted.

“At the same time we were receiving racial hate letters through the post, and stuff written on the outside walls which was racist,” she said.

“We contacted the police and a couple of them turned up and made Glody go through being interviewed on camera. In the end we were told there was not enough evidence to charge the boy who beat him.

“When all the above was taking place, the boy started damaging the property. The police turned up and again said there is nothing they can do.”

Driven at

Ms Joseph said another of her sons, Daniel, was also involved in an incident in which he was allegedly driven at by a motorist.

“A mother who had on a few occasions knocked the house door to tell me that Daniel needs to stop talking to her daughter took it upon herself to get into her car and run Daniel over,” she said.

“The police said there was not much they could do for me.”

The inquest heard that in another alleged incident a boy urinated on Christopher and his younger sister.

Ms Joseph said: “Another incident reported to the police was whereby a mother physically dragged Christopher by the neck from one part of the road to our house to tell me that Christopher and her son were playing a game that involved throwing stones at each other and her boys sustained a bump.

“People in the street saw what she was also doing and no-one said anything. We started arguing and she turned around and started threatening me and then my house would soon be on the ground.”

She also told the court that Christopher had allegedly been assaulted in the local Co-op store and required hospital treatment.

“Obviously by this time, and due to previous encounters with the police, I did not bother calling them or reporting the incident to the police because I had given up on calling them,” she said.

“The family ceased to make complaints to the police regarding their experience with racist abuse because they were dissatisfied with their response on every prior occasion.”

House fire

Ms Joseph alleged that, on the day of the house fire in May 2018, police officers spoke with the children without the presence of her or a guardian.

“The police attended and immediately took my older boys to one side and started saying to them ‘Who started the fire? Tell us the truth’,” she said.

“I was told by someone to attend the house of a lady that I did not know and then I found a lady police officer talking to Christopher without a guardian or parent present.

“The police officer turned around and told me that it was Christopher that started the fire. The family were dissatisfied with how the police treated Christopher on this occasion.”

Ms Joseph also claimed Christopher was racially abused at secondary school by another child who was excluded for a day.

She added: “I brought my kids up not to allow things like this to get to them. They didn’t really communicate how they felt about their experience in Hirwaun.

“But as they got older, I started noticing them defending themselves as the attacks continued.

“We had all sorts going on while living in Hirwaun. Nothing within the family as such but just problems in the community.”

One teenager told the inquest he saw another boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, push Christopher into the water with his hands.

“I had a clear view of what happened,” the 17-year-old said.

“Everybody for a few seconds didn’t know if he could swim or not and there wasn’t a panic, and when people realised he couldn’t swim people jumped in to try and help him.

“I think he was flailing and trying to keep himself above of the water.”

The hearing continues.


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