Police ‘did all they could’ during tragic drowning

Pawel went missing near the York Road footbridge
Pawel went missing near the York Road footbridge

Warwickshire Police have been told they have “no case to answer” over rescue attempts of a man who drowned in the River Leam.

Following a three-day inquest into the death of Pawel Przydalski at Warwick Crown Court, a jury recorded a narrative verdict of death by misadventure.

Pawel Przydalski

Pawel Przydalski

The Polish national drowned after entering the river off the York Road Bridge in November 2014.

The jury determined it was likely he jumped in the river and that the depth, temperature and time he spent in the water all led to his death.

Over two days of witnesses the inquest heard that despite police presence that night, officers were called away from the river following reports that the drowning man had a gun. By the time they were cleared to return several minutes later, he could not be seen.

Mr Przydalski’s body was found by police divers four days later close to where he was last seen by officers.

I saw his head go under and not reappear as I withdrew. I told fire and rescue services to stay clear as it was a potential firearms situation.

Inspector Joanne Hyde

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has confirmed the police have no case to answer over allegations they failed to take meaningful action.

The inquest heard that on November 15, Mr Przydalski, who lived in Leamington, was drinking by the footbridge in the Pump Room Gardens with his fiancé, Kamila Kowalik and her brother Piotr.

Around 9pm, an argument broke out between the men leaving Mr Przydalski with a “significant” cut to his head.

He then entered the river - refusing to get out despite efforts to get him to safety and later intervention by police.

Reports were then made that the 26-year-old may have a gun and officers attempting a rescue were told to retreat from the riverbank.

Assistant coroner for Warwickshire, David Clark said: “This was recorded as a death by drowning. Pawel was reluctant to swim to the bank and there was no lifesaving equipment at the scene.

“Police are not trained in water rescues and that is a matter for the fire brigade.

“Police protocol meant that when there was a suggestion of a gun, they were told to retreat for their own safety.”

Speaking via a Polish interpreter, Mr Kowalik said his friend was very angry when he went into the water but that he did not know why he did so.

“I saw him jump in the river and swim away,” he said.

“I jumped in after him but he was pushing me away and wouldn’t get out.”

The jury heard that four police officers were attempting to find Pawel in the river, battling the current and thick undergrowth in darkness to direct him to safety.

But Pawel was swimming away from help, and despite having a good level of English, was shouting in Polish so could not be understood.

Aaron Tighe, a Special Constable at the time, said it was shortly after arriving in the park that he heard from a teenage boy that the man in the river had a gun.

An order was made for officers to withdraw, amid confusion, and it was not until some moments later that the gun sighting was dismissed as possibly a mobile phone.

Inspector Joanne Hyde who was part of the search, said: “I could see Mr Przydalski in the water up to his shoulders. He was shouting but I couldn’t understand him. It seemed he was swimming away from our help.

“Then we were told to withdraw as he may have a firearm.

“I could still see him struggling for breath, his head was going under the water for up to three seconds at a time.

“I saw his head go under and not reappear as I withdrew. I told fire and rescue services to stay clear as it was a potential firearms situation.”

Once officers returned, Pawel was not visible, a search found only a jacket and shoe.

Following the verdict, IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “I would again send my condolences to the friends and family of Mr Przydalski.

“We carried out an independent investigation into the police response that evening, and found officers took all reasonable steps in the difficult circumstances they faced.”