Brixton bids farewell to schoolgirl Bunmi

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The Independent Online

Mourners lined the streets of Brixton, south London, yesterday to remember the drowned schoolgirl Bunmi Shagaya.

The body of the 11-year-old was found floating in a lake at Cany-Barville, near Dieppe, earlier this month, three days after she disappeared on a school trip to northern France.

Bunmi's coffin was drawn through the streets in a carriage pulled by two plumed horses, amid emotional scenes. Later, Culture Secretary and local MP Tessa Jowell joined her family at a packed memorial service in Lambeth Town Hall.

"Bunmi's death has touched hundreds and thousands if not millions of people in the country who followed the dreadful events in France," said Ms Jowell, "and for every person there is a sense of 'what if? How would I cope?'."

Bunmi's 19-year-old sister Rukiyat broke down in tears and had to be supported by her brother as she read a tribute. "Bunmi was a great girl with a real sense of humour," she said. "She loved drawing and singing and dancing in the house."

Her parents Salinata and Hamed sat behind the coffin, crying throughout.

The family was joined by pupils and teachers from Bunmi's school, Hillmead in Brixton, who sung songs and read poetry dedicated to their classmate. Teacher Collete Anderson described Bunmi as "an excellent example to everyone in the class".

Bunmi had been on a trip with 40 other pupils and six teachers from Hillmead. She was found in shallow water less than 40ft from the beach at Cany-Barville, where a party of 16 children had been playing and swimming under the supervision of two staff. Police believe that she must have strayed from the group and into water outside a designated area.

The trip to northern France was Hillmead's first foreign excursion, and will now be the subject of an inquiry which magistrates hope will establish who is to blame for Bunmi's death.

After saying prayers at the Nigerian Muslim Association Mosque on the Old Kent Road, the cortège proceeded to Streatham Park Cemetery, where the burial took place.