Woman burglar drowned in ‘chase’

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A WOMAN fearing she was being pursued by the police after a burglary died after plunging into a river to evade arrest.

Stephanie Soltan, 23, and Michael Ingleson and another man had been involved in a burglary at a shop in Saltaire in the early hours last year, an inquest was told yesterday.

Miss Soltan got into difficulties after jumping in the water with Mr Ingleson as the pair tried to flee.

Mr Ingleson, who lived with Miss Soltan, told the hearing at Bradford Coroner’s Court yesterday that they had been involved in a break-in

“We had done a burglary and ran away from the burglary towards Saltaire,” he said.

He said they had stopped at one point but then heard somebody shouting and running towards them. They believed they were police officers as they were wearing what look like a fluorescent stripe on their arm.

However the hearing was told that they were actually another gang of burglars also in the area, carrying a torch, who attempted a break-in nearby at a similar time.

Mr Ingleson said he and Miss Soltan and the third man who was with them ran behind a pub, near the River Aire, in Saltaire.

However the three came to a dead end so he and Miss Soltan opted to jump into the river in a bid to evade being caught by the officers who they believed were pursuing them.

Mr Ingleson jumped in from a height while Miss Soltan scrambled down to the river’s edge.

“When I last saw Stephanie she was on the side of the banking and then I got carried on the current down the waterfall,” he said.

He had never seen Miss Soltan again, he told the inquest yesterday.

Mr Ingleson said the force of the current had proved extremely strong and at the third attempt he had managed to pull himself out of the water using a branch.

When he got out of the water he met up with his other alleged accomplice who told him Miss Soltan had been arrested.

The next morning, after the incident, last July, he realised she was not in custody and raised the alarm. It was then he learned Miss Soltan had not been arrested and he realised she had actually failed to get out of the River Aire.

“I am just really really sorry that this had to happen and I wish if I could change things it would have been me that died instead,” Mr Ingleson told members of Miss Soltan’s family.

The pair shared a home in Croscombe Walk, Bradford.

Det Sgt Steve Wedge, who was in charge of the investigation, told the hearing that the three were not fleeing the police at the time they jumped into the river. Investigations revealed that there had been another burglary gang operating separately in the same area at a similar time and it was this gang that the three had believed were the police.

He said inquiries had revealed that the three were down by the river when they saw some people who they suspected were the police.

One of them was holding a lit torch and it is thought that this could have been what they believed was a fluorescent stripe on a jacket - making them believe they were being pursued by police officers.

The cause of death was given as immersion. The hearing was told it was not thought that there was enough evidence to conclude that she had drowned as there was no sign that she was gasping for breath but there were cases where the shock of hitting cold water could cause heart problems and cause the body to shut down, the inquest was told.

The break-in at the shop, in which a money box and a charity box were taken, had not been linked to a second attempted burglary shortly after the shop break-in. Det Sgt Wedge said this was believed to have been carried out by the second burglary gang who were also operating in the area that night.

Coroner Peter Straker recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said: “This is a tragic accident.”