Boat case ‘reconstructions’ carried out after tragedy

Poisoned: Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36
Poisoned: Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36
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The father of a man accused of killing his partner and her young daughter after fitting a botched generator on board his boat told the court about a series of reconstructions carried out after the tragedy.

Paul Stuart Eteson said his son Matthew Eteson, 42, had been so troubled by the deaths of Kelly Webster, 36, and Lauren Thornton, 10, that he set about recreating his work in a bid to understand how the system failed. Matthew Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, denies gross negligence manslaughter at Preston Crown Court.

Kelly and Lauren, from Leyland, were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from the generator which Matthew Eteson had brought below deck on his motor cruiser Arniston, moored on Lake Windermere in April 2013.

Gas fitter Matthew Eteson, will not be giving evidence after the judge said it appeared his mental condition would make it “undesirable” for him to step into the witness box.

His father Paul Eteson is a director of Etesons Ltd, a heating and boiler company, but has no formal qualifications in gas fitting.

In June 2013 he helped his son to recreate the system Eteson had brought below deck on the Arniston, matching the Hyundai generator, copper piping and welding used on the boat.

In the first reconstruction, carried out in Matthew Eteson’s garage, the pair sourced a second hand generator from eBay and modified it to install a silencer using copper pipe and steel hose.

They then ran it under a load in excess of 1kw, using an identical fan heater to the one on board the Arniston.

Paul Eteson said: “After 20 minutes an increase in speed occurred. The engine then dumped the electric load it was putting out so the fan heater didn’t work and the lights we had connected didn’t work.

“After a few seconds the generator went back to take over. It then picked up power and brought the electric light back on. It did this three times in fairly short succession.”

However, despite the irregularity Paul Eteson said he and his son had been unable to create a set of conditions in which the generator failed in the way the system had in April 2013.