Neglect verdict: jury concludes that police took insufficient action to save 15-year-old boy who drowned in river

Marcel Wochna was just 15 years old when he drowned in the River Itchen, Southampton, on 8th November 2021 after coming into contact with the police.

The evidence was that Marcel jumped into the freezing cold water when two police officers tried to arrest him on a dark and unsteady pontoon. Neither of the officers were aware of the Hampshire Constabulary policy on working near water before the incident, nor the risk to life posed by cold water shock.

Marcel's friend said that he jumped into the river because he did not want to get into trouble. He had been grounded and so was not supposed to be out of the house.

Tragically, when Marcel went into the water, the police officers did not take any direct action to help him. They did not shout out to him, did not throw him a buoyancy aid, did not even shine a torch on him to see whether he was struggling. They just turned around and walked away.

The expert evidence was that Marcel would have quickly become incapacitated by cold water shock and the weight of his waterlogged clothing.

The jury concluded that there was insufficient immediate action taken by the police to rescue Marcel, and that this failure probably contributed to his death. They found that this was a gross failure by the police, and that Marcel’s death was contributed to by neglect.

The coroner, Mr Jason Pegg, confirmed that he will be sending a Prevention of Future Deaths report to Hampshire Police.

The case has been reported on by the BBCDaily EchoTelegraphSunDaily MailDaily Express.

The IOPC has issued a press release in response to the jury’s findings.

The family was represented by Matthew Turner instructed by Caroline Bayyoud of Broudie Jackson Canter.

Matthew is a specialist in police deaths, deaths in custody, and hospital deaths. He has secured seven neglect verdicts in different inquests since December 2021.