River deaths spark drink safety drive

Sope Peters

Sope Peters

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AS thousands of new students descend on Durham, police are stepping up efforts to keep them safe after the deaths of two young men.

Durham University students Sope Peters, 20, an economics student who went missing on October 29 last year, and Luke Pearce, 19, an engineering student who drowned on May 11, both fell into the River Wear and drowned after nights out drinking.

Inspector Colin Dobson, head of Durham Police’s alcohol harm reduction unit, said: “Freshers’ week is one of those times of the year when there is excessive alcohol consumption and we are working to reduce the harm. The purpose is to promote a safe environment for the new students to really have a good time and to enjoy Durham City.

“But we are so aware that alcohol led to the death or two students last year and we really want to recognise the vulnerability the students put themselves in and do something positive about it.”

“We have been working really closely with the university, individuals from the colleges and Durham Students Union concerning freshers’ week.”

Insp Dobson added bosses in the popular Walkergate part of the city had agreed to hire an event management company to keep the area safer.

“That will free up police time to patrol the wider area where we think people could be vulnerable, particularly down at the river banks and back streets,” he said.

Professor Graham Towl, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, said: “The recent tragic incidents have reinforced our drive to communicate clearly with students regarding their safety and wellbeing.”