05:45PM, Thursday 21 February 2019
A young man was paddling with friends in the Jubilee River last summer when he was dragged under the water by ‘notoriously strong undercurrents’, an inquest heard.
Najeeb Niazi was paddling in the river with, close to the weir by Windsor Road on June 25 last year when he was swept away, having gone out further into the water than his friends, the inquest was told.
Mustafa Akram said in a statement to police that he tried to save his friend after he saw him waving his arms in the air in panic.
But he said whenever he tried to grab his friend he felt himself being submerged too, feeling a ‘hard push’ from Mr Niazi, who eventually went under the water and did not re-emerge.
The inquest heard how a Polish woman and her partner jumped in to the river to look for the missing 22-year-old and did not understand people shouting at them not to go in.
The inquest heard how eyewitness Casey Fortune went to get a life-ring and found it was not in its holder.
But assistant coroner for Berkshire Ian Wade QC said it would not be appropriate to ‘formulate about lost live saving devices’, suggesting it could been stolen or put to good use but not yet replaced.
“It doesn’t automatically follow that if it had been deployed that it would have helped Najeeb. This undercurrent could be quite overwhelming,” he added.
The inquest heard how Mr Niazi had originally travelled from Afghanistan to Italy as an asylum seeker before moving on to the UK where the authorities were reviewing his case.
His body was found by a team of divers the day after he disappeared into the water.
Detective Sergeant Lucy Dean, who spoke at the inquest at Reading Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday), said there are ‘notoriously strong undercurrents’ around the weir area.
She said she has been to three inquests for deaths at the same part of the river.
The Thames Valley Police officer said the force has been working with the Environment Agency, which owns much of the land around there, to make people aware of the risks.
There were numerous warning signs in place at the time and several radio announcements had been aired that summer.
“On hot days it does look to be calm. That’s another factor, it does look to be clear, calm water,” Det Sgt Dean added.
Mr Wade concluded that Mr Niazi, who did not have an address on file, died as a result of accidental drowning.
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