Organs of Brit rugby player, 16, who died in France lake lost after post-mortem

Organs belonging to a young British rugby league player who died in a lake in the south of France were lost following a post-mortem examination, an inquest heard.

Harry Sykes, 16, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was on tour with Halifax Elite Rugby Academy when his body was recovered by divers in the Lac de la Cavayère, near Carcassonne, France died on September 5, 2018.

The tour was organised by the academy's coaches, former Halifax, London Broncos and England winger Lee Greenwood and his brother, Gareth Greenwood.

Harry, described as a strong swimmer, was last seen alive entering the water at around 1.30pm but several hours later his team realised he was missing at the hotel.

Bradford Coroner's Court heard none of his teammates or anyone else saw the sequence of events that unfolded prior to his death that afternoon.

But to add to his family's misery, the inquest heard his heart and one of his lungs had been lost following a post-mortem examination by the French authorities.

The inquest heard there were three possibilities to account for his death: he was either hit by something, lost consciousness or suffered a fatal reaction to the cold water.

Det Insp Tom Levitt, of West Yorkshire Police, carried out an investigation into Harry's death.

He said the party of more than 35 students, aged mainly from 16 to 18, had got public transport from their hotel to the lake for what was supposed to be an enjoyable day in the sunshine.

They arrived between 12pm and 12:30pm and he said there was a loose arrangement that they should arrive back at the hotel by 6pm.

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The inquest heard that although it was a hot day the water was 'freezing' and very murky.

One of the boys reported later that he had felt something 'squishy' under the water and it appeared that this was Tom's body.

Under questioning by counsel to the inquest, Philip Simms, Det Insp Levitt said: "One student has said they felt something.

"They put their hands under the water but it was murky and they couldn't see anything and didn't investigate it further to be fair. They didn't make [the tour organisers] Lee and Gareth Greenwood aware.

"They thought it was a possible jellyfish. There was a conversation between various students who brushed it off as a bit of a laugh, unfortunately."

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DI Levitt explained that it was only when a headcount took place at the hotel at 7pm that it was realised Harry was missing and eventually at 9pm the French police were contacted.

He said that the Greenwood brothers, who both have previous criminal convictions for unrelated matters, were arrested and interviewed on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter.

Richard Copnall, representing Harry's mother, Natasha Burton, and his stepfather, Daniel Burton, asked DI Levitt whether he thought the bar had been reached for criminal prosecution.

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DI Levitt replied: "I definitely thought there was a case to answer."

Mr Copnall then asked what the Greenwood brothers were doing from 1:30pm.

DI Levitt said they were in a restaurant bar with no clear sight of what was going on in the man-made lake.

The inquest heard a tragedy had been narrowly averted on a previous tour in 2017 when a child got into difficulties and Lee Greenwood had to rescue him because he was struggling.

The inquest continues.

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