Family of missing Amazon worker found dead say 'police let us down’ as death ruled as 'misadventure'

Upale Kaloshi was found dead in June last year
Upale Kaloshi was found dead in June last month -Credit:Kent Police

The death of a ‘loved and respectful’ 21-year-old whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff near Dover was the result of misadventure, an inquest has concluded. Upale Kaloshi had been missing for more than two weeks when his body was found by a private investigator and a resident after he accidentally fell off the cliff, the coroner said.

The young man, from Lewisham, failed to show up to his night shift at an Amazon warehouse in Dartford on May 20, 2023 raising alarm bells among his family. His dad Fostino Kaloshi said at an inquest held at Oakwood House in Maidstone on Friday (May 10) that it was “out of character” for his son to leave without informing them.

“Even to go for a walk, he would let the family know. But on that day he just went silent,” he said. Coroner Katrina Hepburn said Upale’s dad spoke to him the night before, saying he was in “good spirits”.

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Upale was last seen on Saturday, May 20, 2023 and was reported missing the following day by his family. Initially treated as a low risk missing person by the Metropolitan Police, this was upgraded to medium risk shortly after.

Officers visited his address on the afternoon of May 21, and began enquiries to establish his whereabouts. The investigation revealed the 21-year-old had travelled to Dover. His phone had stopped ringing but he had made cash withdrawals.

“It was not clear what he was doing at this stage,” the coroner said. The case was upgraded to high risk on May 23.

A senior officer authorised a review of his phone and financial data. Due to a person's right to privacy, the use of this investigative technique is only authorised when there is a concern that a person has come to serious harm. Analysis of this data showed Upale had been in the Dover area on Saturday, May 20.

The Met made a request for the investigation to be transferred to Kent Police on May 24, however it was not accepted as there was no evidence to suggest he was still in the town. Checks were made with hospitals in Kent, the Met Police said.

On Thursday, May 25, officers from the Met travelled to Dover to carry out CCTV enquiries and they visited locations Upale was thought to have visited. Following these enquiries, the case was transferred to Kent Police on May 26.

In a statement read out at the inquest, the family said they felt “the case was not treated with the urgency it needed”. They complained about the "time taken to initiate the investigation”.

The family ended up hiring a private investigator Sean Comer, who went down to Dover on June 6, 2023. Speaking at the inquest, Mr Comer said he started his investigation by visiting a cafe where Upale was caught on CCTV.

“CCTV shows Upale coming into the cafe,” he said. “He ordered food, and then sat at a table inside the restaurant waiting for his food. He had earphones on. He got his food and then left the restaurant and walked in the direction of Dover town centre.

“He was on his own. The CCTV was only good for me in that when he left the cafe he went left towards the town centre,” Mr Comer said.

The investigator told the court he spent the entire day in the town centre with a photo of Upale, speaking to people. He then headed to the Airbnb where the missing man stayed for a night.

“I spoke to the owner, cleaner and members of staff. The cleaner saw him leave,” he said. “I did not pick him up on CCTV. We know he left the airbnb because the cleaner saw him leave.”

Mr Comer told the court he went back to the town centre and spoke to John McConnell who said he was foraging on the beach when he found a black jumper. “I knew Upale had left the hotel in a black jumper,” Mr Comer said. “I stayed overnight to continue my investigation.”

The following day Mr McConnell took the investigator to the location where he found the jumper. “Five to 10 yards in front of the jumper was a body,” Comer said. The inquest revealed the body was found in a state of decomposition.

Multiple injuries

Parts of Upale body were trapped in rocks, according to the coastguards who recovered him. The inquest heard Upale suffered multiple injuries including broken and dislocated bones. The coroner said the injuries found were consistent with a fall from height. In her conclusion, she said: “I am not satisfied that suicide would be appropriate”

She mentioned Upale’s plans which included a haircut appointment that he did not attend, a vaccine appointment, searches for hotels in America and searches for the process of getting an e-passport.

Coroners at inquests can record a 'short form' conclusion or a 'narrative' conclusion, which are typically longer and more explanatory. The coroner returned the former, agreeing with both police forces and the family that a short-form conclusion would be appropriate in this case.

His death was an 'unintended consequence'

Ms Hepburn said his death was the result of misadventure. “He went to Dover on purpose, I do not know what the purpose was. He has gone to the cliff, I find that he has accidentally fallen,” she said.

She added his death was an ‘unintended consequence’. His internet search revealed Upale had an interest in spiritualism, cliffs, bridges and portals.

Unanswered questions

Outside the court, Upale’s brother Malasa told KentLive that many questions remained unanswered. He added: “With the urgency we had in him missing, we didn't feel that same way (from police), because obviously the answers we were getting were that he is an adult, he has no medical issues, no nothing.

"So he wasn't really put on high risk. Well, for us, it was. So that's why we were just disappointed.”

His sister Lukundo Kaloshi added: “The case kept being passed. We spoke to so many police people. He kept being passed on to different people that knew nothing. And they kept making mistakes.”

The family had made formal complaints which were addressed during the inquests. They accused the police of not checking all CCTV available in the area and not following up on information the family was providing them with. The latter was upheld, according to an internal report from Kent Police.

Police response

While Kent Police found that all relevant and necessary CCTV enquiries had been completed, the force said officers could have provided better explanations and given more assistance when updating the family. Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Smith, of the East Kent Missing Persons Team, told KentLive: “I would like to offer my condolences to the family of Upale Kaloshi at what must be a very difficult time for them.

“Following efforts to locate Mr Kaloshi, Kent Police officers have been in contact with his family, offering support and answering their questions. I hope the conclusion of the inquest into his death gives them some degree of closure as they continue to come to terms with their loss.”

A spokesperson for the Met Police said: "Our thoughts remain with Mr Kaloshi's family and friends following his tragic death. We note the outcome of the inquest and comments from the Coroner that there was no evidence any police action or inaction caused or contributed to his death.

“Officers carried out a number of enquiries when Mr Kaloshi was reported missing. These enquiries led to the case being transferred to Kent Police. The Met referred a complaint from the family to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) who passed the matter back to the Met for local investigation.

“That investigation, by officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), concluded there were no issues in how the matter was investigated.”

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