Student found dead after city centre prank on parents ended in tragedy

A young student died after the prank he pulled on his parents turned tragic.

Charley Gadd had been enjoying a night out with dad Jolyon and mum Kimberley at The Warehouse Project in Manchester two weeks before Christmas.

The Manchester Evening News report that for the second time that evening he had messed around by ‘running off’ and leaving them.

But this time the 20-year-old did not return – and the film student was found dead after a month-long search.

An inquest into his death is taking place after his body was discovered in the River Irwell by Media City on January 10 this year. His dad, Jolyon, said his had already run away from them once that night as a joke.

He said: “I went chasing after him, running a couple of blocks. He fell over and I picked him up. He found it really funny that I was so unfit and we walked off arm in arm. Then we went to get something for him to eat, but he ran off again.”

His parents said he had ‘ran off’ after being last seen near the Spar Store in St Mary’s Gate at around 1.10am on Saturday December 11.

His family spent hours desperately trying to find him before reporting him missing to police.

His last known movements were caught on CCTV, putting him outside the Royal Exchange Theatre, heading towards St Annes Street, just before 1.15am.

Giving evidence at Stockport Coroners Court, Police Coroners Officer David Wood, of Greater Manchester Police, said CCTV footage showed Charley heading towards St Mary’s parsonage. He was then seen in a small car park to the rear of Alberton House which overlooks the River Irwell.

He said at 1.18am Charley was seen to go across the car park, which had a steep drop into the River Irwell, but was not seen to leave. He said: “It would have been impossible to know that under the car park was water.”

Police had carried out a ‘serious investigation’ with a huge search effort across the city centre after he was reported missing by his parents but he was tragically found dead some weeks later.

PCO Wood was present on January 10 when Charley was identified by another officer using an ID and bank card found in his wallet.

The court heard how Consultant Pathologist Dr Andrew Yates carried out a post mortem examination and said he could see signs consistent with Charley being immersed in water for a long time. A toxicologist report showed he had some alcohol present in his body.

Senior Coroner Alison Mutch said to his parents: “There was nothing you could do to change what happened, it is one of those tragic accidents that sometimes life brings.”

She said from what she knew of Charley, he seemed to be “delightful” and told them: “He clearly burnt very brightly in the time he was part of your family and he will always be part of your family.”

Summarising the tragedy, she said: “This is such a very, very sad situation, particularly for Charley’s family who have lost a beloved son and a beloved brother. It’s clear that Charley was a very intelligent young man, with a very bright future in front of him.

“He was very close with his parents who had a very loving relationship, they had music in common and had been to various music venues together including Wembley, Brighton and then Manchester in December.

“It’s clear that on the night in question Charley was messing around and ran off and sadly became completely disorientated in a city that he was unfamiliar with. I can only imagine the anguish his parents felt that night looking for Charley and wondering what on earth to do.”

Charley lived on Otton Road, Sudbury, Suffolk, and was a student at the University of Essex. Ms Mutch went on to say that the evidence sadly showed Charley had gone into the River Irwell and once he was in the water it had been impossible to get out.

She said: “At that time of year it would have been very challenging to get out. I am satisfied it was a complete accident that happened due to a series of bad luck.

“The car park was dark and he would have been able to see the bright lights on the other side but would have had no idea there was a river between him and the bright lights.”

Ms Mutch gave her sincere condolences to his parents and to the rest of his family, including his brothers. She said Charley died as a consequence of going into the River Irwell. She said while he had consumed alcohol it was not at a toxic or fatal level.

She said: “I record Charley died as a consequence of drowning and record his death as an accidental death.”

Dad Jolyon said of his son: “He packed a huge amount into a tragically short life. I was hugely proud of him. I could not have been prouder.”