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Teenager jokily asked if he should push boy, 13, into river, inquest told

10 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Christopher Kapessa. Photo issued by South Wales Police .

A teenager was heard jokily asking if he should push a 13-year-old boy into a river shortly before he drowned, an inquest has been told.

Christopher Kapessa died after the incident in the River Cynon near Fernhill in Rhondda Cynon Taf, south Wales, on July 1 2019.

South Wales Central Coroner’s Court in Pontypridd has been told that another boy, then aged 14 and who cannot be named for legal reasons, pushed Christopher from a ledge into the water.

The schoolboy, who could not swim, got into difficulty and shouted for help – with other children jumping in and trying to rescue him before he disappeared below the surface.

Emergency services

Emergency services attended and Christopher was recovered from the water but later declared dead at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.

Giving evidence to the inquest, Killian Haslam, now 18, said the group of school friends met at what was known as the “red bridge” on the day of the incident.

Mr Haslam said Christopher removed his top and glasses before going to stand on a ledge with two other boys, who were considering jumping in.

He told the court: “He took everything off like he was ready to go in, like he was going to go for a swim. He was saying, ‘I can swim’. Then he was saying he was a great swimmer.

“He was saying he wanted to get in, he could swim. Then it was he was scared. He was having a laugh, joking around.

“There were loads of us jumping in and out constantly.”

The witness said the teenager accused of pushing Christopher into the water was stood on a footpath next to the ledge.

Mr Haslam said: “He asked me if he should push him in. I was out of the water, wrapping a towel around me. There was no conversation, he just asked me a question.

“He didn’t mean it in a bad way, there was no bad intention there. It was a jokey way, like you do, boys being boys. I didn’t take much notice.”

When asked about the comment, Mr Haslam said: “Nothing bad, nothing horrible, just a little comment. It was nothing sinister or anything like that.

“I don’t think I gave a response. I just walked past.”

Shouting

He said he went into nearby woods to change into his clothes but went back to the river after hearing shouting.

Mr Haslam continued: “I ran back and Chris was in the water. I just remember jumping in. I just jumped – instinct.

“I think it was about four of us altogether.”

Mr Haslam said he met the teenager alleged to have pushed Christopher into the river a week afterwards.

He said: “He came up to me asking what I had said in my statement. I said I told them what I heard, which was that Christopher slipped in. He was like, ‘Thank you’.

“That’s when he told me he pushed him. I said, ‘Next time I have an interview or speak to the police, I’m going to have to tell the truth’.

“He agreed with me. He didn’t want me to lie for him.”

When asked what Christopher told other children at the bridge about his swimming ability, Mr Haslam said he said both that he could and could not swim.

Mr Haslam told the inquest: “He was shouting out loud. He was a very loud, bubbly boy. He was saying he could easily swim 1,000 miles. He was telling everyone.

“He was acting really nervous, saying, ‘I can’t swim’. Then he was saying he could swim. He kept saying, ‘I want to go for a swim. I can swim’.

“I remember people hyping him up. He would act nervous. People would say, ‘Oh, you’ll be all right, so and so is lifeguard-trained, we’ll help you’.”

Physical contact

Mr Haslam said he did not see any physical contact between Christopher and the teenage boy accused of pushing him into the water.

Asked about the words used by the teenage boy, he said: “I can’t remember specific words. It was along the lines of, ‘Shall I push him in?’.”

In a police interview read to the inquest, Tyana Chislett, now 18, said Christopher and two other boys were asking how deep the water was and throwing stones into the river.

She said Christopher told her he could not go into the water because he was unable to swim.

Miss Chislett said: “I was just on my phone. I looked up, I saw Christopher in the air, then he went into the water.

“When Christopher went into the water it was a big splash. Nobody went in the water for a bit because everybody thought it was a joke. He kept struggling, saying, ‘Help me’.”

She said other children jumped in to rescue Christopher, including the boy accused of pushing him into the river, but were unable to save him and called the police.

In her interview, Miss Chislett said the boy would sometimes be “nasty” to Christopher and they would argue.

“He wasn’t just horrible to Christopher, he was horrible to everyone. It was just what mood he was in,” she said.

Asked what mood the boy was in that day, Miss Chislett said: “He was happy. He was fine.”

The inquest continues.


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