Bricklayer's death on St Albans development was 'corporate manslaughter'

PUBLISHED: 08:01 24 September 2015 | UPDATED: 08:01 24 September 2015

6 Silver Court, Watchmead where Linley Developments Ltd is based

6 Silver Court, Watchmead where Linley Developments Ltd is based

Archant

A young father who was working as a bricklayer on a St Albans development was crushed to death when a wall collapsed him after his boss ignored a warning that it was unsafe.

Gareth Jones, who was married with a young son, was killed instantly when the bricks and debris landed on top of him at the site in Mile House Lane.

His workmates tried to free him but nothing could be done, St Albans Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

In a victim impact statement given to the judge, his widow Lianne, 34, said: “Gareth was my whole life. I miss him every second of every day. The grief in my heart is as strong today as it was on the day it happened.”

Earlier she said: “I didn’t just lose my husband, I lost my best friend, my future and a big part of myself.

“Gareth was a devoted father and husband; he was hard working and didn’t deserve to lose his life.”

The couple had a son Casey who was two-and-a-half when his father died. Mrs Jones added: “Gareth was Casey’s hero... he has had to come to terms with the fact that he will never see his Daddy again.

“Gareth was one of life’s good guys and his untimely death has devastated all of those who knew and loved him.”

Prosecutor Mark Dennis told the court that Mr Jones, 28, of Berwick Place, Welwyn Garden City, was working on a new garden store room on the site in Mile House Lane just before 2pm on Wednesday, January 30, 2013, when he was killed.

Linley Developments, from Welwyn Garden City, admitted corporate manslaughter.

The company’s managing director Trevor Hyatt, 49, of Chapel Lane, Letty Green, and the project manager Alfred Barker, 59, of Highwood, Gazeley, Suffolk each pleaded guilty to contravening two charges of Health and Safety Regulations.

Mr Dennis said the company had been instructed to build a three bedroom house on the site for £376,000. In addition, it was agreed to build a storage room in the garden for £34,900.

The storeroom was to be built next to the 2.9 metre wall but the plans the company worked from were incomplete. He said the wall, which had been built a year earlier, was “not fit for purpose to be a retaining wall.”

It was only soil on the garden side of the wall that prevented it falling, he went on: “The company did not engage nor did a structural engineer inspect the wall. In reality, an inspector would have advised that it was to be taken down and rebuilt.”

Sixty tonnes of soil was moved from the side of the wall but no support or buttresses were placed against it. When levelling work was carried out so that the storeroom was the same level as a neighbouring storeroom, one of the workers Andy Davies told Mr Hyatt that the wall needed “underpinning”, but he was brushed off.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that the company’s planning had been “woefully inadequate.”

Mr Dennis went on: “Gareth Jones was hammering metal pins into the ground when, without warning, the wall collapsed on him. He was completely covered by falling debris. He colleagues made efforts to lift it off him, but it was in vain.

“The emergency services arrived but nothing could be done. A post-mortem examination found death would have occurred the moment he was struck.”

Civil proceedings against the company are in progress.

James Sturman for Mr Hyatt said he sent his heartfelt condolences to Mrs Jones and her family. He said the company was not a ‘cowboy outfit’ and was not a company that cuts costs by taking risks.

For Mr Barker, Adrian Darbishire said he had never been in trouble before and was a ‘thoroughly decent man’. He went on: “It was an isolated mistake. His is not a risk taker. He is not a chancer. He was too reliant on what he thought the condition of the wall was.”

Judge Andrew Bright QC is due to sentence the company this afternoon (24).

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