Man jailed for killing teenager who fell in sea by not going to her aid
A man who pleaded guilty to killing a 17-year-old girl by leaving her to drown after she fell into the sea off the Kent coast has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Michael Bowditch, 21, admitted manslaughter by gross negligence of college student Becky Morgan, who was found dead off Broadstairs last year.
Police were called to the Port of Ramsgate at 5am on Sunday May 1 amid concerns for the welfare of a girl, and Becky's body was recovered two-and-a-half miles away.
Prosecutor Simon Taylor told Maidstone Crown Court that the pair had met the night before at a birthday party before ending up at the Harbour Arm in Ramsgate.
Mr Taylor said: "By the basis of plea, Mr Bowditch accepts that, although he cannot say exactly how Becky Morgan came to fall into the sea, once she fell in he failed to take any steps to try to assist her.
"It is the failure to take any steps to prevent Miss Morgan's death after she fell into the sea which forms the basis of his culpability for manslaughter."
Sentencing Bowditch, of Prestedge Avenue, Ramsgate, Judge Jeremy Carey said many people would find his inaction "repugnant".
The judge told him: "You did not try in any way to help a drowning girl - not by throwing her a life buoy, not by going to her aid as some would have done, not by calling for help, not by contacting the rescue or emergency services.
"In other words, you left her to drown."
The court heard that Bowditch called police just after 5am that morning, reporting that he had seen "the death of a person" up to three hours earlier.
Police went to his aunt's home, where Bowditch was asked to accompany officers to the harbour to show them where Becky had fallen in.
When an officer asked why he had not got his phone out to raise the alarm, Bowditch replied: "Well, that's great for you, but I was very, very nervous."
As Bowditch and the police arrived at the scene, Becky's coat and bag were found and then Bowditch gave a tearful, expletive-ridden account of what happened.
He told the officers: "We were both laying here. We were both laying here, she stood up. We were both f****** about and she f****** fell.
"We were f****** about and she fell off here. She wasn't talking anymore and she was screaming. I tried to get help.
"I couldn't get help and she asked me to."
As an officer asked him if he was OK, Bowditch replied: "No, I feel like I f****** killed her.
"She asked me to help. I couldn't get it to her. She asked me to leave and I f****** did."
Victim impact statements were read on behalf of Becky's relatives, including her separated parents, Lee Ann Bevan and Sean Morgan.
Ms Bevan said: "I was proud of how she had grown as a person and now she is gone I feel something bright in my life has gone."
Mr Morgan's statement said: "Seeing her dead, it got me again. My personality changed. Before I was always laughing, now I'm asking 'Why her?'."
Toxicology tests showed that Bowditch had cocaine, alcohol and cannabinoids in his bloodstream, with alcohol said to have been at a "very high level".
In his first police interview following his arrest, Bowditch said in a statement that he and Becky were on the Harbour Arm, sitting on the ground, kissing and cuddling.
Former grammar schoolboy Bowditch said he then remembered being on his feet when he heard a splash but that he did not see Becky go into the water.
Mr Taylor said: "He stated he was drunk and did not realise the significance of what had happened and went back into town where he began to sober up a little.
"When he realised the significance of the events, the police were informed. He believed this to be a tragic accident."
Defence counsel Oliver Saxby QC said Bowditch's "severe intoxication" was partly to blame, and he was not thinking in a "sensible or logical fashion" at the time.
Mr Saxby said: "What happened in the early hours of that morning is, first and last, Michael Bowditch recognises, an utter tragedy for Becky Morgan, her family and friends, and nothing said on his behalf is intended to take away from that fundamental fact."
He added: "He cannot say precisely how she came to fall into the sea. He accepts that he was with her at the time and failed to prevent it happening.
"And he accepts that his inaction played a part in her death. Had he done something, her life could have been saved."