The family of a drowned Somalian girl have accused police of institutional racism for ‘not properly investigating her death’ due to her ethnicity.
Shukri Yahya Abdi, 12, drowned in the River Irwell in Bury, Greater Manchester, on 27 June.
Her mother, Zam Zam Ture, and cousin Mustafa Omar say police ‘did not conduct an effective investigation’ into Shukri’s death and that they were ‘treated differently’.
Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on Wednesday through a translator, Ms Ture said: “Yes, we believe we have been treated differently because they are institutionally racist.
“After 30 minutes [Ms Ture] reported her daughter missing because it was totally out of character for her to not come home. Normally her daughter would come straight home from school, she had been doing that every day.”
Shukri was reported missing by her mother just after 7.30pm on 27 June and a short time later police received a separate report that a girl had gone into the River Irwell and had not resurfaced.
Underwater search teams later recovered her body from the river.
Approximately ten hours later, Greater Manchester Police informed Ms Ture, but she said they spoke to her “harshly” and “tried to convince [her] that her daughter had been swimming”.
The family pointed out that Shukri could not swim and was wearing full Islamic clothing.
“We don’t know exactly what happened at the river, but we know Shukri very well and it is so out of character for her to go near anything that scares her. She’s not brave to try new things,” added Mr Omar.
“She knew her daughter wouldn’t go swimming, especially fully clothed.”
On Thursday, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced it had begun an investigation following a complaint about police actions following her death.
An IOPC spokeswoman said: “In July the force referred a complaint they had received about their actions; it alleged that officers failed to conduct an effective investigation and prematurely concluded that the death of Shukri Abdi was not suspicious.”
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A separate investigation into her death by Greater Manchester Police is continuing, the IOPC said.
The family lawyer Attiq Malik said: “There are often complaints from the BAME communities that the police don’t give their concerns due weight.
“To turn around so quickly and do a public press release saying ‘we do not believe there is anything wrong’, it is the family’s firm position that they have been treated that way because of their race.
“Had it been a different racial background, more sensitivity would have probably been given, a more thorough investigation.”