Court hears of Warwick Castle death fall

20/04 Updated: 20/04 07:52

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Scaffolding was put up on the bridge following Mr Townley’s death. (s)

A JURY has heard how a visitor to Warwick Castle suffered fatal head injuries when he tripped and fell over a low wall as he was crossing a bridge over the dry moat.

Pensioner George Frederick Townley had stumbled and fallen over the wall - which is just 15 inches high - head-first 14 feet to the ground below.

But Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, which runs the castle, has pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The charges brought by Warwick District Council follow the death of the 72-year-old from Berkswell, near Coventry, in December 2007.

Prosecutor Barry Berlin said: “Mr Townley was a visitor who was going from the castle grounds at about dusk, about 4.50 in the afternoon, when he simply tripped and fell from the Bear and Clarence Bridge and fell onto his head and suffered a fatal injury.”

In relation to the charges, he said it was alleged Warwick Castle had failed to take sufficient measures to protect visitors crossing the bridge and failed to carry out an appropriate risk assessment of it.

“The Crown do not have to prove the failures led to or caused the accident, only that there was a failure to protect the safety of people going to and from the castle.”

Two friends, Laura Haddy and Natasha Pearce from Oxfordshire were also on their way out, crossing in the middle of the tarmacked bridge, which is not the main entrance to the castle, while Mr Townley was nearer the edge.

“They say there was nothing wrong with Mr Townley. He was just walking naturally, and they saw him trip.

“It was thought at one point that he might have had a heart attack. But he didn’t, and simply fell into the deep dry moat and suffered an inter-cranial haemorrhage.”

The friends ran to where he had fallen and then went down to their knees when they suddenly realised there was such a drop from the bridge, and called down to him but got no reply.

The following day Laura had sent an e-mail to Warwick District Council in which she said she had called the emergency services for Mr Townley and wondered whether he was OK.

Her e-mail continued: “It is clearly not safe, and it is quite a drop down. I fear another incident may occur. Children in particular are at risk of falling over the edge.”

The two friends had gone into the castle over the Barbican Bridge, which has higher walls, and when they came out on the Bear and Clarence Bridge, because of bushes on either side, they assumed they were on ground level rather than a high bridge.

A St John Ambulance man tried to revive Mr Townley, who was breathing but unconscious when he was put into the ambulance, but without success and he died of his injury.

Mr Berlin told the jury: “It is the duty of every employer to conduct his business in such a way as to ensure persons not in his employ are not exposed to risk to their safety as far as reasonably practicable.

He pointed out that no risk assessment had been carried out on the Bear and Clarence Bridge until the day after Mr Townley’s fall.

But the fire brigade insist on a higher barrier being installed along the sides of the bridge as a safety measure when events such as the carol concert were staged there.

The trial continues.

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