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Christopher Kapessa, 13, died after being pushed into River Cynon as a prank, coroner says

A 13-year-old boy died after he was deliberately pushed into a river, a coroner has said.

It comes after another boy, who was 14 at the time, insisted he did not push Christopher Kapessa into the River Cynon in Rhondda Cynon Taf on 1 July 2019.

Jayden Pugh, now 19, told South Wales Central Coroner's Court in Pontypridd he accidentally "fell" into Kapessa on a ledge above the river.

However, assistant coroner David Regan found Christopher had been deliberately pushed in.

He gave the narrative conclusion on Monday after a two-week hearing.

Pugh "pushed Christopher into the water in a misplaced sense of fun, namely as a prank", Mr Regan said.

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

Christopher's mother, Alina Joseph, told the inquest her family had received racial abuse while living in the village of Hirwaun between 2012 and 2018.

Mr Regan concluded that Christopher had been "deliberately pushed into the back from behind".

He added that Pugh's actions "deprived Christopher of the opportunity to decide whether or not to enter the water".

"I have no hesitation in finding that Christopher did not consent to being pushed into the river."

Mr Regan described Christopher's 2.5-metre fall from the ledge into the river.

The water was 2.5 metres deep and, according to Christopher's mother, he was not a confident swimmer and began to panic and shout for help.

Other children present, including Pugh, jumped in and tried to save him.

Mr Regan said the children had "acted very courageously in doing so".

Christopher was a 'proper joker' and 'shining star'

Millie Morgan, 18, jumped in to try and save Christopher.

She told Sky's West of England and Wales correspondent, Dan Whitehead, that Christopher was "a shining star".

"He'd walk in a room and everyone would be laughing. Like a proper joker," she said.

"He was kind and funny and really good at football. He just brought joy."

Ms Morgan said it was "supposed to be a nice day out with a group of friends".

"I think I was the last to jump in because it's obviously scary. You could see he was giving up and he couldn't try anymore," she added.

"When I jumped in, he went under. And I tried going under but obviously the water was just pitch black and green and freezing and it was so deep."

Speaking outside court after the inquest concluded, Ms Joseph paid tribute to her son.

"I cherish the memories of my son who was an incredible young boy," she said.

"Christopher will always be remembered for bringing immense joy and happiness to me and to everyone he met.

"Despite his age, he was always thoughtful and sensitive, full of hope and undeterred by any obstacles placed in front of him.

"We deeply miss him. As a family, there's nothing that we wouldn't give to have just one more day with Christopher."

'Deeply shocked' community

The family's lawyer Daniel Cooper said the Crown Prosecution Service now had an obligation to review its decision not to prosecute in the case.

Assistant Chief Constable Danny Richards said Christopher's death "deeply shocked and affected many people in the local community".

"Our thoughts remain with his family and friends who have had to re-live the terrible tragedy through the recent inquest proceedings," he said.

"South Wales Police made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) who have examined our initial response and investigation into the circumstances surrounding Christopher's death.

"We hope that this independent scrutiny and the outcome of the inquest proceedings will give us a greater understanding of the issues which have been raised about this case."

The IOPC published its findings on Monday after the inquest concluded.

It found "no grounds for any disciplinary proceedings to be brought against any of the officers involved".

However, IOPC director David Ford said the watchdog found that "communication with Christopher's family could and should have been handled better by South Wales Police".