Questions raised after man drowned in River Leam

Questions must be answered, a coroner said on the first day of an inquest into the death of a 26-year-old man who drowned in the River Leam.

Monday, 6th June 2016, 5:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 11:57 am
Pawel went missing near the York Road footbridge

The inquest into the death of Polish national, Pawel Przydalski, is being heard before a jury of 11 people at Warwick Crown Court.

Opening on Monday, they heard that on November 15 2014, 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.

But that around 9pm, an argument broke out between the men and Mr Przydalski entered the river - refusing to get out despite efforts by Piotr to bring him to safety and later intervention by police and paramedics.

Pawel Przydalski

After early attempts to get the 26-year-old from the water, Warwickshire Police officers were told he may have had a gun and ordered to retreat from the riverbank.

When this later emerged not to be the case, the officers returned to the river but Mr Przydalski was no longer anywhere to be seen.

His body was not found in the water until four days later by a police diver and following a extensive search of the area by his friends and family who hoped he had been able to get himself out of the river that night.

David Clark, assistant coroner for Warwickshire 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.

Pawel Przydalski

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

“Pawel had possibly been seen struggling to keep his head above the water. Police protocol meant that when there was a suggestion of a gun, they were told to retreat for their own safety.

“There are questions to be answered here. Why was he in the river? What was the response of the police while he was there, and when they heard he might have had a gun?”

Speaking via a Polish interpreter about events before Pawel got in the water, his finance, Kamila said following the argument her brother walked off but was followed by Pawel who did not want him to go home.

Her brother then mindlessly threw an almost empty bottle of vodka that the pair had been drinking from behind him, but it struck Pawel causing him to “bleed a lot” from his head.

Ms Kowalik, who met her fiancé in 2013 before moving to Leamington, said: ”I went to ask people for help to call an ambulance as I didn’t speak English.

“He was very aggravated which was unusual for him and I was worried. When I next saw him he had gone into the water.

“I didn’t see him get in, but I saw Piotr jump in after him. “I have no idea why Pawel jumped in.”

Giving evidence later that day, Piotr Kowalik said after seeing the bottle he threw had struck Pawel, he walked back to check everything was okay.

But that his friend did not want help, and was very angry - which is when he got into the river and swam off in the water which was “dirty and cold”.

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

“I jumped in and got about a metre away from him but he was pushing me away and wouldn’t get out.”

Mr Kowalik said he was helped out of the water a short time later when he started to feel unwell, and was taken to an ambulance.

He said it was at this time that he saw a boat approach Pawel and that men, who he assumed to be police officers, grabbed him by the hands before letting him go back into the water.

Information about the boat was not part of Mr Kowalik’s earlier statement after he said he was “too stressed” to recall it at the time.

The coroner was told that a boat in the water at that time did not form part of any other evidence, and is not recorded on emergency service logs.

The inquest, which is expected to last for three days, continues.