CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Coroner ‘misled’ over Maitland Park fatal fire

Man died in 'shake and bake explosion'

13 November, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The scene of the fire in February

A CORONER has said she was “misled” during an inquest into the death of a council worker who died in a drugs fireball on a derelict housing estate he was living in.

Mary Hassell has written to the head of housing at Camden Council and the chief executive of Town Hall security contractors, First Response, following an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in August.

The inquest heard how council housing manager Daniel Coleman died in an explosion he accidentally sparked while “shake and bake” cooking crystal meth at Aspen House, Maitland Park, in February.

He was in charge of the block which had been earmarked for demolition after dozens of tenants were moved out as part of a Community Investment Programme regeneration.

The coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths notice called into question statements made during the inquest that the council and its contractors had not known Mr Coleman was living in the block.

It said: “One officer gave evidence that he photographed the building during every one of his patrols. It later emerged that this protocol of photographing was only introduced after 14 February 2020, though I had specifically asked about the situation before Mr Coleman’s death. I was misled.”

The Town Hall said it had reviewed all of its empty properties since the tragedy to ensure no “unauthorised activity” was taking place. The inquest had been initially adjourned so that officers from the security company could be called to give evidence.

But the coroner’s notice said she had been “concerned” by evidence that the site was “frequently” monitored.

A neighbour had reported a light on in the block at night and bedding and clothes had been found along with a CD player.

Ms Hassell’s notice went on: “The security officers were emphatic that Mr Coleman could not have lived on the site, saying that if he had been living there they would have noticed, most especially by way of the intruder alarm. I did not accept this evidence.”

She added: “One of the security officers gave evidence that, whilst Mr Coleman occasionally dropped by in the evening, he had never been on site after 9pm, yet there was a written record of him visiting at 3am just before he died.” It added that he “was in charge of a whole site” and that the “explosion and fire he started accidentally could have resulted in other fatalities as well as his own”.

The inquest had heard how Mr Coleman had become unmanageable because of drug addiction. Ms Hassell’s notice added that a new drug and alcohol testing policy had been in place in Camden for five months but “had not resulted in a single attempt at a drug test”.

A council spokesman said: “Following this incident, we reviewed all our empty properties assigned for development to continue to ensure that as far as possible no unauthorised activity was taking place on them. Numerous security measures were in place to secure the Aspen House site at the time of the tragic incident. We are of course, however, acting on the coroner’s report to even further enhance measures to prevent any unauthorised activity on our sites in the future.”

First Response dec­lined to comment.

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