Gas safety engineer’s dodgy work killed family, court told

Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland
Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland
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A GAS safety engineer fitted a dodgy power supply in a boat which poisoned his girlfriend and her daughter as they slept, a court heard.

Boat owner Matthew Eteson, 42, installed the petrol-driven system on board his motor cruiser on Lake Windermere, leading to a build-up of carbon monoxide in the cabin, a jury was told.

A court heard that he found his partner Kelly Webster, 36, of Leyland, and her ten-year-old daughter Lauren Thornton dead in their beds after they both went for a nap on the afternoon of April 1, 2013.

Eteson has gone on trial at Preston Crown Court, accused of manslaughter by gross negligence after it emerged the carbon dioxide sensors in the boat had previously been disabled, meaning the pair knew nothing about a build-up of gas.

He was also on the boat at the time the boat failed but was sleeping in a separate compartment further away from the generator.

Prosecutor Graham Reeds QC told the court: “The defendant’s design, fabrication, and method of fitting the exhaust system to the generator were exceptionally poor.

“As a registered gas fitter he knew of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

“His poor design, use of unsuitable materials, and failure to test his fabrication under anything approaching the load intended for use was, taken together in all the circumstances, conduct so bad as to amount to the crime of gross negligence manslaughter.”

The court heard how Eteson, of Hale, Cheshire, had gone away with Kelly and Lauren and moored his boat at a ‘swinging mooring’ on Lake Windermere in Cumbria, during the Easter bank holiday weekend in 2013.

He didn’t have access to the mains electricity supply which would have been available in a nearby marina, and was using a portable generator needed for recharging batteries and operating mains appliances on the boat.

At the time, Eteson was a registered Gas Safe installer.

In a statement read out to the court, Kelly’s mother Nia Webster said she first knew something was wrong when she tried to contact her daughter about coming round for an Easter meal but got no reply.

She was eventually visited by police officers who informed her of the tragic incident.

Eteson denies manslaughter by gross negligence.

The trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks, continues.