Body of student discovered in a canal after he was told he was 'too drunk' to travel on a bus

Body of student, 19, discovered in a city centre canal after he was rejected by a bus driver who told him he was ‘too drunk’ to travel

  • Charlie Pope, 19, was discovered in a canal in Manchester after he disappeared
  • CCTV footage shows him walking where he is believed to have fallen into water
  • Flatmate said the pair had tried to board the bus four hours before his death

A student who died after falling into a canal following a night out had left to go home hours earlier, but was stopped from getting on a bus because he was ‘too drunk’. 

Charlie Pope’s body was discovered in the Rochdale Canal on March 2 after he disappeared during the notorious ‘Beast from the East’ storm. 

At an inquest into the 19-year-old’s death at Manchester Coroner’s Court, his flatmate told how the pair had attempted to head home more than four hours before his death, but a bus driver said Charlie was ‘too drunk’ to board. 

Charlie Pope, 19, was discovered in the Rochdale Canal on March 2 after he disappeared during the notorious 'Beast from the East' storm

Charlie Pope, 19, was discovered in the Rochdale Canal on March 2 after he disappeared during the notorious ‘Beast from the East’ storm

The pair returned to a nightclub before coming separated, the court heard. Charlie is thought to have left the venue alone at around 1.20am. 

CCTV captured him heading in the direction of his student halls in Fallowfield. 

But after three ‘missing hours’, footage showed him walking back in the direction of Manchester city centre and onto the canal towpath near Rain Bar, where it is believed he fell into the water. 

Coroner Nigel Meadows concluded Charlie’s death was accidental. 

The tragedy thrust canal safety into the spotlight. A petition – for barriers to be placed along the city’s waterways – launched by Charlie’s father Nick – was signed by 100,000 people. 

In the intervening months, the inquest heard, Manchester’s Water Safety Partnership commissioned an independent report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and has started to act on recommendations – including installing more barriers, lighting and safety measures. 

Charlie's flatmate told the inquest they left at 'around 2am', before a bus driver said Charlie was 'too drunk' to travel, at which point they returned to the Zombie Shack

Charlie’s flatmate told the inquest they left at ‘around 2am’, before a bus driver said Charlie was ‘too drunk’ to travel, at which point they returned to the Zombie Shack

After the inquest Nick, from Northumberland, told the M.E.N. of Charlie’s love for Manchester and thanked all those who had supported the #MakeCharliethelast campaign. 

‘Since Charlie’s death there has been action taken and I commend the safety partnership for doing an independent report and I commend them for saying in court they are committed to implementing that in full and I think it will go a long way to preventing future deaths,’ he added. 

‘I’d like to thank everyone for their support in Manchester and beyond and hopefully we are going to see change. 

‘Charlie was a cracking lad who loved Manchester. I hope now kids like him will be safe.’ 

Tributes to Charlie Pope alongside the Rochdale Canal. Charlies father Mr Pope said: 'Charlie was a cracking lad who loved Manchester. I hope now kids like him will be safe.'

Tributes to Charlie Pope alongside the Rochdale Canal. Charlies father Mr Pope said: ‘Charlie was a cracking lad who loved Manchester. I hope now kids like him will be safe.’

Earlier, the court heard how first-year University of Manchester student Charlie, who was studying economics with philosophy, would drink socially like many of his peers. 

On the night of February 28, he and flatmate Louis Wright shared from a bottle of rum at their halls – Oak House in Fallowfield – before heading to the Zombie Shack in the city centre, where they drank cocktails. 

Mr Wright told the inquest they left at ‘around 2am’, before a bus driver said Charlie was ‘too drunk’ to travel, at which point they returned to the Zombie Shack. 

Later, Mr Wright said he left the bar, assuming Charlie was with other friends or had already gone home. 

The next day, he noticed he had missed a Facebook call from his flatmate at 6am, but his return calls went unanswered and Charlie was reported missing. 

On March 2, Charlie’s body was found by North West Underwater Search and Marine officers in the water near Rain Bar. 

Det Inspector Gareth Davis said CCTV showed Charlie leaving the Zombie Shack at around 1.20am before heading along Oxford Road in the direction of home and to the junction of Charles Street. 

On March 2, Charlie's body was found by North West Underwater Search and Marine officers in the water near Rain Bar

On March 2, Charlie's body was found by North West Underwater Search and Marine officers in the water near Rain Bar

On March 2, Charlie’s body was found by North West Underwater Search and Marine officers in the water near Rain Bar

There followed ‘three missing hours’ during police don’t know ‘where he was or what he was doing’, before cameras picked him up heading back along Oxford Road at around 4.43am, in the direction of the city centre. 

He was then seen walking ‘unsteadily’, in the snow, down Whitworth Street and past the Lock Building, along a towpath and towards a lock gate before moving out of sight. 

A combination of Snapchat entries and a phone call put him as being alive at around 6am. 

Some time after that, he fell into the canal – although there is no CCTV to tell exactly ‘where, when or how’ he fell into the water, Coroner Nigel Meadows said. 

Det Insp Davis confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Charlie’s death. 

David Bladacchino, from the Canal and River Trust, said the Manchester Water Safety Partnership had commissioned an independent report, the authors of which had made 11 recommendations including more lighting, fencing and safety equipment to be kept along the waterways. 

He said they were ‘committed’ to following the report’s advice and were also working on educational programmes in conjunction with Greater Manchester Fire Service to teach groups, including students, about safety around the waterways. 

A petition - for barriers to be placed along the city's waterways - launched by Charlie's father Nick Pope- was signed by 100,000 people

A petition – for barriers to be placed along the city’s waterways – launched by Charlie’s father Nick Pope- was signed by 100,000 people

There was a temporary barrier at Lock 89 near where Charlie was found, and this was to be replaced by a permanent barrier, he said. 

Adrian Brocklehurst, lead health and safety officer at Manchester council, confirmed the town hall was committed to acting on the report’s recommendations. 

Dr Al-Haba, pathologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said Charlie had died from drowning, exacerbated by cold shock, hypothermia and alcohol intoxication. 

A toxicology report found his urine alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. He said Charlie would likely have suffered a ‘cold shock’ on entering the water and would only have survived a ‘matter of minutes’ on impact before suffering cardiac arrest. 

Coroner Nigel Meadows said Charlie’s death had been accidental after consuming a ‘not insignificant’ amount of alcohol. 

Noting the action already being taken by the Manchester Water Safety Partnership, he said he saw no need for a Prevention of Future Deaths Report, adding: ‘There is no direct evidence that any form of barrier could have prevented Charlie falling in the water in the first place.’

He said ‘one could do their best’ to limit the risks, adding: ‘You can have a degree of fencing but it does not stop people from climbing or going through it.’ 

Offering his condolences to the family, he said people of Charlie’s age thought they were ‘bullet proof’, adding: ‘I’m sure many of us in this court room have done things that might be described as foolish but they have not ended up in the consequences here.’ 

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