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Solomon Ngugi was 'loved by everyone who knew him'
A promising young basketball player from Watford told his family he was excited about the start of his "new life" just hours before he died.
Solomon Ngugi, 16, had a place at the Oaklands College Basketball Academy, where he would have been able to train and play against teams from all over Europe.
His mother left him to finish filling out the application form on Thursday, but only hours later, his friends were breaking down the door of his Thorpe Crescent home after receiving an alarming message from him.
Daniel Phillips, from Hertfordshire Constabulary, said the death is not currently being treated as suspicious, and has been passed to the coroner to investigate.
Solomon’s mother Meriel said: "While we were out, he sent his friends a message and they came round to check on him. They knocked on the door but there was no answer, and the dogs were barking, so they broke in."
Solomon was found by his friends but it was too late, and he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
His sister Rosie was at a karate class in the Watford Leisure Centre when she heard the news. When she checked her phone, it was full of messages asking if her brother was alright. She called her friend and was told the news as she walked past the town hall.
Meriel said: "We had to walk back, which took half an hour, and I was saying ‘It’s just a rumour, it will be alright, let’s just get home’.
"When we got back there were police everywhere and my best friend started walking towards me and I just knew it wasn't a joke, and my heart broke.
"I still don’t believe it’s happened. It’s still a surreal nightmare."
Solomon attended boarding school in Surrey for two years, where he became both the youngest player and the captain of the Bognor Royals basketball team.
Aged 15 he returned home to continue with his GCSEs at Oaklands College with the basketball academy, and captained their under 18's team.
In September 2012 he started at Queens’ School in Bushey, to do a BTEC in sports science. Although he was happy with the course, the school did not have a basketball team to allow Solomon to play the sport he loved, so he decided not to carry on studying there.
He had been applying for apprenticeships and was keen to start learning to drive and have his own car, so he could go back to Oaklands in September, without the long bus and train journey.
Meriel said: "On Wednesday I took him back to Oaklands for trials and he came home happy saying it was good to be back on the court, and to see his old coach.
"He was an amazing young man,and was loved by everyone who knew him. He was a joker and enjoyed making people laugh, and had alot of love to give."
As well as basketball, Solomon also enjoyed playing football, tennis and badminton. He supported Chelsea FC, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and played for gade side in West Watford where he won the chairman's award in 2008.
Meriel said: "He was a great sportsman. He enjoyed winning, but if he lost and it was a good game then it was ok. He preferred it when the scores were close, and was happiest when in a team."
"He was good at working out the tactics and calling the shots for the other players.
"He liked to look good. If he was going out, even just to the shops, his trainers had to match his top and his snapback hat."
Solomon worked at the Cha Cha Cha cafe in Cassiobury Park at the weekends. His employment there started as a much younger boy, when he would fill up the drinks fridge in exchange for a can of Coca-Cola.
The cafe closed on Friday after staff found out the news, and arranged to let off lanterns on Saturday night, where 100 friends and family had gathered.
Nicholas Williams, cafe director, said: "He was a great lad who had the same dreams and aspirations as anyone of that age.
"He was a really good member of staff - great with customers and the staff. A lot of the girls who worked here knew him quite well and are very upset.
"None of us saw this coming, he was always smiling."