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Friends slam ‘unforgiveable delay’ after student pulled from River Thames identified three weeks later

Samaria Ayanle was last seen three weeks ago at her university accommodation near Marble Arch (Instagram)
Samaria Ayanle was last seen three weeks ago at her university accommodation near Marble Arch (Instagram)

Friends searching for a missing Black student found dead in the River Thames have slammed authorities for taking three weeks to identify her body.

Samaria Ayanle, 19, was reported missing on March 4 from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where she was in her first year studying Japanese and history of art, her friends say.

But by then her body had already been discovered by a member of the public, washed up on the north shore of the Thames, near Putney Pier on 22 February.

Metropolitan Police said no personal property or identification was found on her and fingerprint tests couldn’t find a match to any reported missing persons at that time.

Samaria’s family and friends have been informed of this development (Met Police)
Samaria’s family and friends have been informed of this development (Met Police)

The force said the body did not match the description of any other missing people around that time and her body was sent to the Coroner for further checks.

When she was reported missing, SOAS said it took up the case and tried to contact her family.

Scotland Yard said the teenager was first reported as a missing person by university staff four days later on March 8.

Details were also uploaded to the UK Missing Persons database in the hope of identifying her, with officers finally linking her to the body found in Putney on March 13, hours after a public appeal.

The force said officers have viewed body-worn video footage of the body being recovered and believe the person found in the Thames to be Samaria. They are still awaiting formal identification.

But students and friends of Samira who had spent the last three weeks searching for her have criticised the university and police for taking so long to make the link.

Black Lives Matter UK, posted on X: “Black people are 4x times more likely to be reported as missing and when they are, their cases are not treated with the same level of care or consideration by authorities.

“The news of Samaria Ayanle’s death is a tragic reminder of this. May she rest in peace.”

Writing on X, one SOAS student said: “Her friends got in touch with uni welfare on 4th March. Why were you waiting till 8th March to report to the police?”

Another said: “Rest in power. My heart goes to you. The treatment of this case by the police and SOAS is shocking. Her having been found on the same day yet being unidentified for almost three weeks is unforgivable and unjust.”

One student told the Evening Standard: “We are very shocked. She seemed very nice and sweet, none of us know what to make of it. There needs to be a full investigation.”

A group of six friends of Samira’s released a statement on an Instagram page set up to find her.

It read: “We greatly appreciate the effort that was made to find Samaria by the various London communities and the progress we have made in three days.

“However the institutions whose responsibility was ensuring safety have made it significantly harder than it should have been to find Samaria.

This is a situation of grief for her family and loved ones.

“A formal complaint to our university was issued today before we had confirmation of Samaria's body being found.

“The report entails about the school not performing due diligence and disregarding the safeguarding policies they listed.”

They added: “This whole situation was completely managed by 6 university girls. This account, the initial post on our private profiles, the contacting of the media was all done by teenage girls.

“If we were able to do this with limited information the school could have done due diligence since they had access to information we never had. We did everything we could but in hindsight institutions have failed us and Samaria.”

Responding to the backlash SOAS said in a statement: “When a tragic death like this occurs, we know that people will have many questions to make sense of what has happened, and we await the conclusion of the police investigation to provide answers to these questions.

“We also want to provide reassurance that when students raised concerns about Samaria Ayanle with the university, we immediately began taking steps to attempt to contact Samaria, including attempting to contact her next-of-kin, contacting Samaria directly, and asking for checks to be made in her halls of residence.

“Out of respect for the confidentiality of Samaria, we were unable to share details of the steps we were taking with the students who contacted us, however we did reply to the students on the same day they contacted us to confirm that we would be taking action, and we began working on the case on that day.”

Anyone with information that could help police should call 101 ref 01/60807/24. You can also share via @MetCC on X.