River Lea drowning: Officers ‘did all they could’ for Hackney teen Jack Susianta
- Credit: Archant
An inspector in charge of police at the River Lea where a teenager drowned suffered “sleepless nights” after his death, but has insisted he was right not to ask the officers to enter the water.
Jack Susianta, 17, was chased by police in the midst of an ecstasy-fuelled breakdown, and jumped into the river because “he had nowhere else to go”, according to a witness at an inquest into his death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court.
Since Monday jurors have heard how Jack returned from festival Secret Garden Party in July last year “over emotional”, “nervous and agitated” after taking MDMA daily while there.
Two days later during a psychotic episode, he “karate kicked” a hole in a window and fled his home in London Fields wearing just his socks, T-shirt and boxer shorts.
His mother Anna Susianta called police who chased him as he ran into the River Lea near the Kingshead Bridge in Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow.
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The teenager’s mental state meant he feared the police were not the real police, the jury has heard.
Giving evidence yesterday, Acting Inspector James Reynolds said officers “appreciated the urgency” and were communicating in a “calm manner” to Jack, and that he was “satisfied they were doing all they could do.”
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“The Metropolitan Police does not expect people to jump in the water but it does expect them to do a dynamic assessment,” he said.
This would take into account various factors such as the conditions of the water including potential obstacles, and the officers’ ability to swim - but they must communicate a rescue plan.
Saying the police are not a rescue service, he added: “Once they (the officers) make a dynamic risk assessment, if they choose to go into the water they will not be in trouble.”
Officers threw 82ft (25m) life ropes to Jack as he became submerged, but the teenager did not grab them.
Coroner Mary Hassell said she was posing some of her questions in case lessons could be learned to manage future incidents.
She asked Mr Reynolds if he felt he made the right decision in not asking while he was in the car en route to the scene whether anyone was a strong swimmer.
He said: “Yes, the rationale for me is that it felt like there was an effective rescue plan in place and they were carrying out a dynamic risk assessment.”
Within minutes of arriving at the scene a police officer had asked to go into the water.
Mr Reynolds said that during this “quite frantic” stage he had not stopped anyone from going into the water, which he described as “dismal” and “really oily, dark and you could not see below the surface”.
Regarding the police officer’s request to go into the canal, Mr Reynolds said: “I could not give that authorisation - it is for you to make a risk assessment.”
The coroner said one interpretation of that comment is that he was “not taking responsibility and was stepping back from the situation”.
Mr Reynolds replied: “I think I answered that in the best way that I can. I answered in a way that people (police officers) could understand.”
Pc Richard Wilson waded into the water but had to go to hospital afterwards because he felt “a bit poorly after ingesting water”, the court was told.
Asked if in retrospect he would have done anything different, Mr Reynolds said: “I did have sleepless nights. I brood about it a lot - it is nothing compared to what Jack’s mum has suffered though - but looking back at it, no, I believe not.”
The inquest continues.