The family of drowned British-Somali refugee Shukri Abdi has condemned her school and Greater Manchester Police after they staged a walkout during a police station meeting which was dubbed a “circus” by the family lawyer.
Broad Oak Sports College announced last week that they had conducted an internal investigation into claims of neglect and bullying prior to Shukri’s death. The school invited Shukri’s family to Bury police station on Friday to discuss the outcome.
However, Shukri’s family branded the investigation a “whitewash” and made clear that they are not happy with their treatment by the school or Greater Manchester Police.
The family solicitor, Attiq Malik, branded the behaviour of police and school representatives at the meeting as “inappropriate” and explained why the family had been left deeply upset.
“The general public, like it or not, don’t feel comfortable talking to people in uniform. The average person in this country does find them intimidating and if you are from an ethnic minority background – black, brown or Asian – they find it a little bit more intimidating. But this is a step further – you have a refugee family who fled a war zone and are going through a very difficult time in their lives and they are now being asked by the school to attend a police station to receive a school report.”
Also at the meeting was Shukri’s mother, Zamzam Ture, who originally fled her Somalian homeland due to fear for her family’s lives.
Attiq Malik explained that Zamzam is not strong in English and struggled to understand the report without a translator.
“We got there, the meeting’s taking place, no copies of the report are provided to the family, it’s just being read, and then Zamzam breaks down. She’s now crying. She was obviously very distressed. She didn’t understand what was going on.”
Mr Malik went on to explain that the meeting was poorly organised, adding to the family’s stress. A translator had allegedly been promised but had not shown up to the meeting.
“We walked out in protest,” explained Mr Malik. “We walked out after being treated like this and not having the respect given to have everything organised properly. No consideration was given to the context of this family or what they are going through.”
The family was reportedly not provided with a copy of the report until after they began to leave. “It was like a circus” Mr Malik said.
Shukri was reported missing by her mother just after 7.30pm on 27 June. A short time later, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) received a separate report that a girl had gone into the River Irwell and had not resurfaced. Underwater search teams later recovered Shukri’s body from the river in Bury.
These latest developments were described to the public at a local community meeting held at the Jinnah Day Care Centre in Bury on Saturday.
The meeting was organised by senior anti-racism campaigners with the support of Shukri’s family to help raise further awareness of the family’s fight for justice.
Several friends and members of Shukri’s family were present at the meeting, including Shukri’s uncle, Mustaf Omar. Visibly emotional during his address to the crowd, he expressed the family’s sense of deep betrayal by the school leadership and the local authorities.
“We have totally lost confidence in the police and the school. From the beginning, they gave us reassurances that they were going to help, that they were going to give their support. They came to the house, the council and school, to pay their condolences, they stayed for five minutes and then they walked away. We let the headteacher attend the funeral and help us dig the grave for Shukri, and he gave us his support but he did not come to attend the police meeting.”
Mr Omar again took aim at Board Oak’s Headmaster Paul Greenhalgh, saying: “I don’t know what kind of support he was expected to give us? Except for showing his face, just to make it look like he was supporting us. We have totally lost faith in him and them all.”
Also in attendance at the meeting were several anti-racism activists, including Maz Saleem who has worked closely with the family since Shukri’s tragic death.
Ms Saleem helped organise the event and had invited several local community leaders to attend, such as Headteacher of Broad Oak’s Paul Greenhalgh, Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins and James Frith the MP for Bury North. None of them chose to attend.
Ms Saleem told 5Pillars they should be held accountable for refusing to attend.
“It is their jobs to be here today, but there are not. No parent, no mother, no father, no brother or sister should bury a child. What’s more hurtful is that the treatment of Shukri Abdi and her family have been buried by the authorities, especially after the outrageous meeting they went through with the school report. It is shameless that the local reps aren’t here today.”
The Justice For Shukri campaign leaders told 5Pillars that they have begun a petition to have the Shukri case discussed in Parliament and are raising funds to support Shukri’s family.
The campaigners claim that going forward they want full transparency from Greater Manchester Police, and another thorough and honest investigation into Shukri’s death and the school’s handling of bullying allegations.
The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), says it will carry out an investigation after the force referred a complaint they had received about their actions, alleging that officers failed to conduct an effective investigation and prematurely concluded that the death of Shukri was not suspicious.
Amanda Rowe from the IOPC issued a statement to organisers of the meeting on Saturday which said: “I offer my sympathies on behalf of everyone at the IOPC to Shukri’s family and all those mourning for her passing.
“We received a complaint which alleges GMP failed to properly investigate the report that Shukri was missing and her death. The complaint also alleges that the police investigation made premature conclusions at that Shukri’s family was treated less favourably because of their ethnic background.
“We take these complaints very seriously. Our investigation will be through and independent. I know there are many questions about how and why Shukri came to be in the river that day and wider concerns about her social and school life. This is not something we can provide answers to this is for the police force and the coroner to address.
“Our role is to look at what the police did and why and see, if anything, can be learned from this tragedy. I ask for your understanding and patience as we begin our work, we will do everything in our power to address these complaints and conduct an independent investigation which provides information and answers. We have met with Shukri’s family and we will provide them with regular updates.”