First picture of teen who ‘pushed boy into river as a joke’

Jayden Pugh, left, deliberately pushed Christopher Kapessa, right, into the river where he drowned, an inquest found

A teenager, found to have pushed his schoolfriend into a river as a joke where he drowned, has been pictured for the first time.

Jayden Pugh ‘deliberately’ shoved Christopher Kapessa into the River Cynon in Fernhill, South Wales on July 1, 2019, an inquest into the boy’s death has ruled.

Mr Pugh, now 19, denies the accusation, telling South Wales Coroner’s Court he slipped and accidentally fell into the 13-year-old.

Mr Pugh, who has never been charged with a crime, had not been named until the last day of the 11-day inquest yesterday.

Christopher’s mum is now demanding the prosecution reopen the case and has accused police of ‘institutionally racist practices’ in its investigation.

The court previously heard that when Mr Pugh and other youngsters at the scene noticed Christopher struggling in the water they jumped in to try and help him.

However, they were unable to save him, and his body was retrieved by a firefighter 90 minutes later.

Christopher was not a confident swimmer (Picture: Wales News Service)

Coroner David Regan, who rejected Mr Pugh’s claim he fell into Christopher, said Pugh ‘pushed Christopher into the water in a misplaced sense of fun, as a prank and not with any malicious intent.’

Christoper, Mr Pugh, who was 14 at the time and a group of others had visited an area of the river known locally as ‘the red bridge’.

Mr Pugh and two or three other boys jumped into the river and swam safely back to shore.

But Christopher, who was not a confident swimmer, was more hesitant and was seen standing on a ledge for around 10 minutes deliberating whether to jump in.

Contradicting Pugh’s account, a number of those at the scene told the inquest they saw him push Christopher into the river.

Mr Pugh said he slipped and fell into Christopher

One witness, Killian Haslam, said Pugh asked him: ‘Shall I push him?, referring to Christopher.

He told the coroner: ‘More jokey, nothing bad, nothing horrible, a little comment that shouldn’t have been made.

‘There was nothing sinister about it – he didn’t mean it in a threatening way.’

Witness Isabella Watts also said Mr Pugh pushed Christopher into the river. When it was later put to her that it was human to blame someone for Christopher’s death, she responded: ‘It weren’t about the blame – it’s about the truth.’

Counsel to the inquest Tom Leeper asked Mr Pugh: ‘Immediately before Christopher went into the water did you walk down behind him and push Christopher in the back with the palms of your hands?’ Mr Pugh replied: ‘No.’

After Christopher’s death, South Wales Police investigated the case and passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider a manslaughter charge.

Christopher’s mum Alina Joseph says the Crown Prosecution Service should reopen the case (Picture: Wales News Service)

Prosecutors decided it was not in the public interest to pursue Mr Pugh, a decision later upheld by the High Court after a legal challenge by the Kapessa family.

Speaking outside the coroner’s court, Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph criticised South Wales Police and the CPS.

‘They had a biased view of me as a black single mother living in the Valleys,’ she said.

‘The police did not investigate the pattern of racism suffered by Christopher and the family. It was only after I raised concerns that they began to investigate properly.

She added: ‘The decision not to prosecute despite evidence is something I wouldn’t wish upon any mother or any family.’

During the inquest, Ms Joseph described racist abuse, including her children being beaten, Christopher being urinated on, and being physically dragged by his neck, after they moved from London to Wales.

Ms Joseph claims Christopher had received racist abuse after the family moved from London to Wales (Picture: Family handout/Unpixs)

Mr Regan described their experience as ‘extremely disheartening’ but added: ‘There has been no suggestion during the inquest that Christopher’s death resulted from a racially motivated act.’

During the inquest, police described how Mr Pugh had been dubbed a ‘killer or murderer’ on social media, with one campaign linking Christopher’s death to the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

At times, Mr Pugh’s family were moved from the area and police safeguarding measures were put in place to protect them and their home.

Following complaints about South Wales Police made by the Kapressa family, the force referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

The body said it found ‘some shortcomings’ in how the police dealt with the family, adding that communications by officers could have been better.

But a complaint that officers decided Christopher died as a result of an accident without proper investigation, was not upheld, neither was one that the family were treated less favourably due to their race.

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