A young couple seen drowning in a hotel swimming pool had been mistaken for participants in a murder mystery game.
Josephine Foday, 22, who was studying nursing in Canterbury, was found floating face down in an indoor pool at a four-star hotel.
Komba Kpakiwa, 31 – reportedly Miss Foday’s lover – was also found dead in the water.
Josephine Foday died in a hotel pool in Essex
An inquest heard how a fellow guest had ignored the pair’s cries for help minutes earlier, believing they were joking around.
Marcel Haniff told the hearing he had seen Miss Foday and Mr Kpakiwa splashing and shouting in the water, but had headed past them to the sauna.
When he emerged from the steam room he found the pair, who could not swim, face down
on the surface of the pool.
“Initially I thought they were still playing around but then I realised it was too still and something was seriously wrong,” said Mr Haniff, 54.
“There was a murder mystery weekend at the hotel so I thought it may still be a prank.
“I ran back to reception to tell them what had happened. I told the receptionist ‘either someone is playing a practical joke or a terrible accident has happened’.”
Miss Foday was a second year student studying nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University.
She and Mr Kpakiwa – who was married with children – had reportedly been in a relationship.
Mr Kpakiwa is believed to have whisked Miss Foday away to Down Hall Country House Hotel in Hatfield Heath, Essex, for a romantic break.
Down Hall Country House Hotel in Essex. Picture: Polly
Witnesses saw the couple heading for the pool in their swimwear in the early evening.
Mr Haniff, who was booked in at the hotel with his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary, was walking to the sauna when he saw the couple in the 10.5m pool.
He told the inquest: “There was a lot of splashing going on. The gentleman facing me, I could see his head and shoulders.
“He was shouting ‘hey’ but it could have been ‘help’. The lady, whose back was to me, seemed to jump up and put his head underwater.
“I regret to say I thought there were just joshing about. They were being very boisterous. I only had them in my sight for around five seconds.
“They seemed to be perfectly healthy – just joking and playing.”
When Mr Haniff came out of the sauna seven minutes later he saw Miss Foday and Mr Kpakiwa’s lifeless bodies.
Paramedics tried to revive the pair but they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Post mortem tests showed both deaths were “consistent with drowning”.
The jury inquest was told a police investigation found the deaths on April 27 last year were not suspicious.
Josephine Foday was a student at Canterbury Christ Church University
The hearing, in Chelmsford, Essex, has also heard the hotel had no lifeguards on duty and that CCTV cameras surveying the pool area were not working when the tragedy occurred.
Miss Foday and her grandmother Theresa Farma had fled to Britain from their native Sierra Leone in 2001 during the civil war.
"I thought there were just joshing about. They were being very boisterous. I only had them in my sight for around five seconds" - Marcel Haniff
Her parents had both disappeared during the fighting. Miss Foday was living in Barrier Road, Chatham when she died.
Shortly after the death, Christ Church University paid tribute.
In a joint statement, tutors from the adult nursing department said: “Josephine was a dedicated student, quiet and unassuming but loved by her friends and fellow students.
“She was kind, insightful and thought of other students and her friends above all else. She was a pleasure to teach, and know, and she will be sorely missed.”
Nobody was present on behalf of Miss Foday at the inquest. The hearing continues.