'I fell into him': Teenager denies pushing Christopher Kapessa into the River Cynon before drowning

  • ITV Wales' reporter Hamish Auskerry has the latest from Pontypridd Coroner's Court.

A teenager accused of pushing Christopher Kapessa into the River Cynon before he drowned in 2019 has told an inquest that he “fell into him”. 

The witness, who cannot be named due to a reporting restriction put in place by the court, denied that he had deliberately walked up behind the 13-year-old and pushed him back with the palms of his hands. 

The inquest opened on Monday, more than four and a half years since the incident took place in the Fernhill area of Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taff on 1st July 2019. 

The Coroner, Mr David Regan, will conclude whether, if caused by another person, Christopher’s death was the result of a deliberate act, an accident, or some other reason.

The counsel for the inquest, Mr Tom Leeper, referred to the moments immediately after Christopher entered the water.

“Were you standing on the grey stone ledge and laughing?”, he asked.

The witness said: “I can remember standing on the grey stone ledge, I can’t remember if I was laughing or not.”

Hearing the key witness give his evidence about the alleged push, Christopher’s mother, Alina Joseph, broke down in tears and the hearing was paused while members of her family and legal team escorted her out of the room. 

A short while later, she returned and the witness continued giving his evidence. 

Earlier in his testimony, he had told the court he had known Christopher for a few months through attending Mountain Ash Comprehensive School together. 

The witness was asked by Mr Leeper what he had seen of Christopher while he stood on what was known as “the red bridge”. 

“I remember seeing him get change, taking his top off”, the witness told the court. 

The teenager, wearing a light grey suit and tie, gave evidence from a different room in the court building, as all the teenage witnesses have done. 

The witness said people were jumping into the river, including himself. He explained the water was too deep to stand in. 

“How did you feel before you jumped into the river?, Mr Leeper asked. 

“Excited really”, the witness replied, who also accepted he had been feeling a bit scared and nervous about doing so.

Mr Leeper asked, “Why were you feeling a bit scared?”

“I knew I didn’t swim very good”, the witness said. “I thought I would be able to swim to the side but I was nervous that the current may take me or something”.

The witness said he had spoken to Christopher before the incident about his ability to swim. 

“He said to me he can swim, but not very good”, the witness explained. 

Before being asked about the moment at which he is accused of pushing Christopher into the river, the Coroner gave him a warning about his evidence. 

“You don't have to answer a question where the answer might incriminate you", Mr Regan told him. "If you do answer, you must tell the truth”. 

Asked by Mr Leeper, “Did you tell Killian Haslam that you had pushed him into the river as a joke? 

“No”, the witness replied.   

“How did Christopher end up in the water?”, Mr Leeper asked. 

“I fell into him”, came the reply. 

Mr Leeper continued: “Immediately before Christopher entered the water did you walk down behind him and push him in the back with the palms of your hands?”

At this point, the Coroner repeated his warning about self-incrimination. 

After the question was repeated, the witness replied: “No I didn’t”. 

The inquest is looking into the extent of the search by the emergency services and the deployment of available resources.

The scope of the inquest also includes looking into whether resuscitation attempts were commenced immediately upon Christopher being located, and if not, whether earlier commencement of resuscitation attempts would have altered the outcome.

The coroner also wants to establish what was known by the authorities responsible for public safety, as to whether the site was used for swimming by children, and whether any steps were or ought to have been taken to prevent such activity or warn or safeguard those undertaking them. 

The inquest is expected to last up to another week.