CamdenNewJournal

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Swain’s Lane explosion death: ‘Neighbours smelt petrol’

Former councillor due to give evidence at inquest

11 October, 2018 — By William McLennan

The site in Highgate, pictured on the day of the tragedy

AN inquest into the death of a construction worker in an explosion during demolition of a former motor garage will hear evidence from neighbours who had complained about the smell of petrol coming from the site.

Stephen Hampton died in hospital following the blast in Swain’s Lane, Highgate, a preliminary hearing at St Pancras Coroner’s Court was told on Friday. The 54-year-old had been using a cutting tool to break up a disused petrol tank at the time of the explosion on March 16 last year, the pre-inquest review heard.

Detective Sergeant Martin Head, who led the Metropolitan Police in­vestigation, said that full control of the inquiry was handed to the Health and Safety Executive after it was determined that the evidence was “insufficient to make a prosecution for corporate manslaughter or homicide”.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell said the inquest would hear evidence from Swains Lane Ltd, which owned the site; Mead Building, which was to carry out the construction of shops and homes; Material Movements, subcontracted to demolish the disused motor garage; Chelmer Consultancy Services, which developed a “method statement” detail­ing how work should be carried out; and PJ Labour, which employed Mr Hampton and other workers carrying out demolition.

Ms Hassell said: “Swains Lane’s owners subcontract to Mead for construction, who subcontract to Material Movements for demolition, who subcontract to Chelmer for method statement and also to PJ Labour for the labour.”

She said: “It’s a matter for each of these organisations whether they seek interested person status and whether it’s by the way of legal representation or not.”

The court heard that Swains Lane Ltd was part-owned by developer Noble House. She added: “We do need a very senior person from the relevant company to be able to step into the witness box.”

Ms Hassell said the inquest will also hear evidence from four neighbours who smelt petrol during the demolition.

They will include former Camden councillor Roger Freeman, “whose wife smelt petrol and he complained about this”. Ms Hassell said that Noble House director Alex Oliver, who responded to the complaint, would be called to give evidence.

The inquest, which will be heard by a jury, is to begin on March 18 next year – almost two years to the day after Mr Hampton’s death. Ms Hassell said: “Had there not been an ongoing police and HSE investigation I would not have waited this long.”

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