Teenage refugee fleeing Taliban drowned after swimming at Cardington Lock

Cardington Lock Image: Geograph:M J Richardson
Cardington Lock Image: Geograph:M J Richardson

A teenage Afghan refugee drowned while swimming in a river during the summer heatwave.

Haroon Armani, 18, was in the River Great Ouse at Cardington Lock in Bedford with a friend when he got into trouble and went under the water. A boy and girl dived in to find him but were unsuccessful.

999 calls were made and Haroon was pulled from the water. He was rushed to hospital where he died early the following morning. The cause of death was multiple organ failure as a result of drowning.

Haroon and a friend had gone into the water on the afternoon of Friday, 16 June this year, an inquest in Ampthill heard.

He had been used to swimming at a pool in a local gym, but it was not known if he had ever swum in open water.

Social worker Roseanne Johnstone from Bedford Borough Council said Haroon had arrived in the UK in August 2021 as an unaccompanied adult.

He had fled Afghanistan because he feared the Taliban as members of his family had been in the army. They travelled to Pakistan through Iran and Turkey with a group from Afghanistan.

They were smuggled in trucks through Bulgaria, Serbia Slovenia, Italy and France. They lived in The Jungle in Calais before going on a small boat across the channel.

In December last year Haroon had been granted leave to remain in the UK. He was living in the Embankment in the town and was attending Luton’s Barnfield College. His ambition was to be a police officer.

Ms Johnstone said: “He was a fit healthy, very active young man. He had always got a smile on his face.”

Bedfordshire Senior Coroner Emma Whitting concluded that he died of misadventure.

She said: “In hot weather, he entered the water of the [River] Great Ouse. Whilst he was familiar with swimming indoors, the extent of his experience and knowledge of open water was unknown.”