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‘It just doesn’t make sense’: Coroner records open verdict into death of Dagenham teen Kane Johnson

PUBLISHED: 18:12 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 18:12 09 December 2019

Kane Johnson. Picture: via MPS.

Kane Johnson. Picture: via MPS.

via MPS

The mother of a teenager whose body was pulled from the River Thames has said there is no way he committed suicide after a coroner recorded an open conclusion.

Kane did not come home for his 18th birthday on April 15. Picture: Hayley JohnsonKane did not come home for his 18th birthday on April 15. Picture: Hayley Johnson

Drama student Kane Johnson, of Becontree Avenue, Dagenham, was pronounced dead on April 23, six days after he was reported missing.

The 17-year old's grieving mum, Hayley Johnson, at the inquest into her son's death, said: "Not one ounce of me believes he did it. I don't believe he put himself [in the Thames]. It just doesn't make sense."

The inquest at Waltham Forest Town Hall on Monday, December 9 heard Kane was a well-liked young man who was positive about life without any real health problems.

The coroner heard that Redbridge College student Kane said "I love you" to his sister as he headed out the door at about 10pm on April 10 for a night out.

Kane on his seventh birthday with mum Hayley Johnson. Picture: Hayley JohnsonKane on his seventh birthday with mum Hayley Johnson. Picture: Hayley Johnson

He was spotted on CCTV outside Longbridge Food and Wine in Longbridge Road at 11.53pm and again at a bus stop in Bennett's Castle Lane from where he caught a bus heading into central London. But his following movements remain a mystery.

Det Sgt Fiona Robinson told the inquest that Kane's missing status was put at the highest risk level because he said "I love you" on leaving the house and had deleted his social media accounts.

She added that a missing dumb bell and Kane not having his bank card also contributed to the high risk level. He had his phone, although without a SIM card.

The officer said her main concern was that Kane may have harmed himself, explaining he was not known to police before and there was nothing to suggest he was involved in gangs or drugs.

Kane, who was studying drama at Redbridge College, in his late teens. Picture: Hayley JohnsonKane, who was studying drama at Redbridge College, in his late teens. Picture: Hayley Johnson

Dr Rowena Smith, who carried out a post mortem, told the inquest there were no signs of defensive injuries or of Kane being restrained or anything to suggest his death was caused by violence.

A toxicology report showed 88 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of blood in his system, but not enough to describe him as drunk. Alcohol is produced naturally by the body after death, Dr Smith said.

She ruled out that doses of the painkillers tramadol and codeine, which were also in Kane's system, would prove fatal.

Traces of GHB, which can be used as a date-rape drug, were present in Kane's system, but Dr Smith said the chemical could have been the naturally occurring result of decay.

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Dr Smith said the levels of codeine, tramadol and GHB in his system could not have knocked Kane out.

Family members quizzed Det Sgt Robinson as to why more wasn't done to investigate a former friend of Kane's who posted a drill rap song online on March 17 which included the lyric: "He thinks he's clever, and I'm going to put him in a casket".

Det Sgt Robinson said an expert examined the song but found it to be "of no concern", adding it failed to provide sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

When asked why a witness had not been investigated after she posted an RIP tribute to Kane two days before his body was found, Det Sgt Robinson said a statement had been taken.

Miss Johnson said: "There are dots which have not been connected."

The inquest heard it was normal for Kane to say "I love you" to family and to leave the house without his bank card. He was in "high spirits" both "laughing and joking" with his mum and stepdad on the night he went out. No suicide note has been found.

It was also usual for Kane not to respond to messages straightaway with communication between mother and son strained no more than normal between any parent of a teenager, the inquest heard.

Friends' reports Kane was feeling depressed were taken into account more than the family's information, Miss Johnson said.

Area coroner, Graeme Irvine, gave the cause of death as drowning and returned an open conclusion.

He said: "The overwhelming impression I get is [Kane] was a young man in good health. I'm baffled. I can't find any evidence to support suicide."

He added there was no evidence Kane had the missing dumb bell when he left the house.

But Mr Irvine praised the investigation, saying Kane's missing person case had been given the highest status and officers had gone through all the available CCTV.

On the investigation, he said: "I don't think it was done perfectly, but a great deal of effort has been made. I commend the investigation."

He urged the Met to speak to the family about the questions which remain.


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