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Man jailed for watching teenage girl drown instead of calling for help

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 26/01/2017 Patrick Grafton-Green
Becky Morgan © Provided by Independent Print Limited Becky Morgan

A man who watched a teenage girl drown after she fell in the sea instead of calling for help has been jailed for manslaughter.

College student Becky Morgan, 17, was with Michael Bowditch when she fell in the water in Ramsgate, Kent, in May last year.

The pair had only met at a party the night before.

Bowditch, 21, had denied murder but admitted manslaughter by gross negligence at Maidstone Crown Court and was given a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence on Thursday.

Police were called to the Port of Ramsgate at 5am on May 1 and Becky's body was recovered two-and-a-half miles away.

Prosecutor Simon Taylor told the court: "By the basis of plea, Mr Bowditch accepts that, although he cannot say exactly how Becky Morgan came to fall into the sea, once she fell in he failed to take any steps to try to assist her.

"It is the failure to take any steps to prevent Miss Morgan's death after she fell into the sea which forms the basis of his culpability for manslaughter."

Sentencing Bowditch, from Ramsgate, Judge Jeremy Carey said many people would find his inaction "repugnant".

The judge told him: "You did not try in any way to help a drowning girl - not by throwing her a life buoy, not by going to her aid as some would have done, not by calling for help, not by contacting the rescue or emergency services.

"In other words, you left her to drown."

The court heard that Bowditch called police just after 5am that morning, reporting that he had seen "the death of a person" up to three hours earlier.

Police went to his aunt's home, where Bowditch was asked to accompany officers to the harbour to show them where Becky had fallen in.

When an officer asked why he had not got his phone out to raise the alarm, Bowditch replied: "Well, that's great for you, but I was very, very nervous."

<div class="dnd-widget-wrapper context-sdl_editor_representation type-image" style="font-size:13px;"><div class="dnd-caption-wrapper">Michael Bowditch was jailed for five-and-a-half years (Kent Police)</div><div></div></div> © Provided by Independent Print Limited
Michael Bowditch was jailed for five-and-a-half years (Kent Police)

As Bowditch and the police arrived at the scene, Becky's coat and bag were found.

Then Bowditch gave a tearful, expletive-ridden account of what happened.

He told the officers: "We were both laying here. We were both laying here, she stood up. We were both f****** about and she f****** fell.

"We were f****** about and she fell off here. She wasn't talking anymore and she was screaming. I tried to get help.

"I couldn't get help and she asked me to."

As an officer asked him if he was OK, Bowditch replied: "No, I feel like I f****** killed her.

"She asked me to help. I couldn't get it to her. She asked me to leave and I f****** did."

Toxicology tests showed that Bowditch had cocaine, alcohol and cannabinoids in his bloodstream, with alcohol said to have been at a "very high level".

In his first police interview following his arrest, Bowditch said in a statement that he and Becky were on the Harbour Arm, sitting on the ground, kissing and cuddling.

Former grammar schoolboy Bowditch said he then remembered being on his feet when he heard a splash but did not see Becky go into the water.

Mr Taylor said: "He stated he was drunk and did not realise the significance of what had happened and went back into town where he began to sober up a little.

"When he realised the significance of the events, the police were informed. He believed this to be a tragic accident."

Defence counsel Oliver Saxby QC said Bowditch's "severe intoxication" was partly to blame, and he was not thinking in a "sensible or logical fashion" at the time.

Mr Saxby said: "What happened in the early hours of that morning is, first and last, Michael Bowditch recognises, an utter tragedy for Becky Morgan, her family and friends, and nothing said on his behalf is intended to take away from that fundamental fact."

He added: "He cannot say precisely how she came to fall into the sea. He accepts that he was with her at the time and failed to prevent it happening.

"And he accepts that his inaction played a part in her death. Had he done something, her life could have been saved."

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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