Charlie Pope’s father calls for action to make city centre canals safer after death of son

  • Father of teenager who died in city centre canal criticises lack of action by authorities
  • More than 100 protesters come together in Albert Square
  • Father says he will continue to fight to improve canal safety

The father of a teenager who died in a city centre canal has criticised a lack of action by the authorities during a peaceful protest held at Albert Square this morning.

University of Manchester student Charlie Pope went missing on 19 March. His body was found the following day by divers searching the Rochdale Canal.

Charlie Pope

Charlie’s father Nick, 53, came down from their home in Ponteland, Northumberland, to join more than 100 rallying protesters.  

He said: “Most people seem positive to try and do what they can do improve the safety [on the canals]. With the exception of the Canals and River Trust who really don’t seem to want to change anything at all and seem to be stuck in the 1960s.

“Their concerns seem to rest solely with the boaters on the canal as opposed to the safety of the people around it. Now there are a lot more people who come to the canal, who go to the bars, restaurants, and clubs. And they don’t seem to have any concern for their safety and welfare whatsoever.”

The ‘Make Charlie the last campaign’ was started by Alona Ainsworth, 29, from Salford, who was moved by the death the university student.

She started the petition because she felt nothing was being done to stop preventable incidents.

She said: “There’s at least two deaths reported a year of people falling into the waterways around Manchester.”

This has happened in other cities and things have been done about it but we’re just letting it continue here without nothing being done

The petition has nearly 55,000 signatures so far.

After a minute’s silence was held for Charlie, Mr Pope and protesters marched to Rochdale Canal where he urged the crowd to “not give up”.

Laura McCann

Laura McCann, 29, was one of many to travel from the North East for the march.

She said: “One person dying is too much. No one should be dying there. He was a 19-year-old boy, he had his whole life ahead of him.

“It’s just very sad, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Make it safe and stop someone else from dying.”

A total of 76 bodies have been discovered in the canals and waterways of Greater Manchester since 2007, according to research carried out by the Sunday Times.

Mike Worthington, 69, who spends his days on the canal around Ancoats, said tragic incidents such as Charlie’s death were a rarity.  

“The canal system is as safe as it can ever be. It’s just on certain occasions things can go wrong,” he said.

“I don’t think the canal system can be bettered. Fencing would be intrusive to people working on boats and even pleasure boaters.”

The Canals and River Trust did not respond to calls for a comment.