Family in tribute to ‘truly loving son’, 18, who died after slipping into canal

A family have paid tribute to an 18-year-old after a coroner ruled he died in an accident by slipping into a canal at night.

Kamau McCallum-James, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, went missing on August 21 and his body was found in the river at Colnebridge nine days later.

Dr Mike Brown, who carried out a forensic post mortem, told the inquest that cold water immersion which could include drowning was the most probable cause of his death.

During a hearing attended by assistant coroner Angela Brocklehurst and Kamau’s parents, Phil James and Jacqueline McCallum, Dr Brown explained that entering cold water can cause shock and hyperventilation.

Mr James said his son was due to start a degree in gaming at a university in the north east.

Bradford Coroner’s Court heard that Kamau, whose sight was impaired and who struggled to see without his glasses, was last seen alive by his mum at her home at 11pm on August 21 and when she woke up the next morning he was missing.

After he failed to respond to text messages, she reported him missing to West Yorkshire Police at 9.28pm on August 25.

Three days later detectives decided to upgrade the investigation as a high-risk missing person.

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Kevin Robinson, a volunteer with Holme Valley Mountain Rescue, discovered his body on August 30.

The senior investigating officer, Det Insp Mark Catney, said an analysis of his mobile phone revealed it had become disconnected from the network at 3.30am and that was the time he believed he had fallen into the water.

A man and a woman thought they had seen Kamau on August 25 on separate occasions but DI Catney said he was confident that Kamau had gone into the water at 3.30am and that these were mis-sightings.

Summing up, Mrs Brocklehurst said: “I have no evidence that Kamau intended to take his own life.

“He was a talented young man with much to look forward to with no mental health issues that anyone was aware of.”

She added: “I find that Kamau, on the balance of probabilities, fell into the River Colne on or about 3.30am on August 22, slipping on a grassy bank while it was dark and being unable to see clearly.

“My conclusion is that Kamau came by his death as the result of an accident.”

Addressing his parents directly she said of their only child: “Kamau appears to have been an excellent young man with an amazing future and was loved by all who knew him.”

After the hearing his parents said: “We remain devastated at the loss of Kamau who was taken from us in the most tragic circumstances.

“He was a wonderful, very gentle and truly loving son and continues to be very much missed by all of his family and friends.

“We want to thank family and friends, the police and all the emergency services in helping us find Kamau and for the ongoing support from the police up to and through the inquest into our son’s death.

“As a family we would respectfully ask to be left alone at this very sad time.”