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Inquest hears how woman died after jumping River Aire
A woman jumped into the River Aire in the mistaken belief she was fleeing from police after burgling a florists – but the people she was so desperate to get away from were actually another group of burglars, an inquest heard.
The body of Stephanie Soltan, 23, was found in the water close to The Boathouse pub in Saltaire the next day by police frogmen.
Her boyfriend of two years, Michael Ingleson, who also jumped into the water, told a Bradford inquest he wished it could have been him who died not her.
In a heated exchange, Miss Soltan’s mother Josephine asked him “Why did you leave her? Why did you take her there in the first place?” He responded: “You could not tell her anything.”
Mr Ingleson, who lived with Miss Soltan in Croscombe Walk, Bradford, told the inquest another man they were with, who failed to turn up to give evidence, had wanted to open the money boxes they had stolen from Bouquet florists.
But it was then they were disturbed by a group of men shouting at them and thought they were police. He saw Miss Soltan climbing down to the edge of the water. He was swept downstream, throwing away a money box he still had in his coat and only managed to pull himself out by grabbing on to a branch.
Mr Ingleson said he met up with the third man who told him the police had Miss Soltan, so he went home.
“I’d take any lie-detector test you’d want me to,” he said, insisting he was telling the truth about what happened on July 19 last year. Detective Sergeant Steve Wedge said some parts of what Mr Ingleson had said were inconsistent with what evidence they had gathered from other witnesses and CCTV.
The inquest heard that on the day Miss Soltan was reported missing, police had earlier attended Bouquet florists after an alarm went off. Officers had then been called to The Boathouse pub after a man living on a barge reported hearing banging come from the back of it and a hole in the roof was found.
Det Sgt Wedge said although at first the two break-ins had not been linked to Miss Soltan’s disappearance, he now believed, after an anonymous phone call, the men who had attempted to burgle The Boathouse had been the men who shouted at Miss Soltan and her friends and that once they had cleared them off, had returned to try and break-in.
Mr Ingleson had later admitted the florists connection.
Bradford coroner Peter Straker recorded Miss Soltan’s death had been a tragic accident and that she died from emersion in water.
Mr Straker told her family the lack of classic drowning symptoms found at her post mortem indicated “the absence of struggle and distress.”