Mother's fight to change recall laws after son's death

57-year-old Denise Branton is the mother of Kevin Branton who died aged 32 from carbon monoxide poisoning.

On the 13th November 2010 my life was torn apart at the news of the deaths of my only son, Kevin, 32, and his friend Richard, 30, who were found dead in the house they shared in Saltash, Cornwall.

Kevin was discovered sitting in the chair in the front room, while Richard was in his bedroom. We were informed that they died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty cooker which had been recalled in November 2008 by the manufacturers Beko.

Denise Branton at the grave of her son, Kevin
Denise Branton at the grave of her son, Kevin Credit: ITV/Tonight

Our devastation turned to anger when we discovered that there had been eight other deaths linked to this type of cooker. And even more unbelievable was the fact that Brian, Richard's father, was able to purchase the cooker after five other deaths had occurred in the previous two months.

Beko did start a product recall after a further death occurred in January 2009, making a total of six at that time.

A further two deaths occurred in September 2009. Worryingly, there are still around 10,000 of these cookers still unaccounted for.

Beko issued a safety warning for for Flavel cookers with a separate oven and grill
Beko issued a safety warning for for Flavel cookers with a separate oven and grill Credit: Beko

People always say that things will get better but it doesn't. We are now two and a half years on and still utterly heartbroken. You just learn to cope with the sadness. Small things bring him back to me, a tune on the radio, a laugh that sounds like his, home made scotch eggs and pasties (his favourites), a four leaf clover or a text from his friends.

Kevin and Richard had a huge circle of friends, they were always supportive of each other, through good times and bad.

Hundreds of them attended their funeral, arranged their eulogies, flowers and music and put up a memorial seat in their local pub. It was one of the most heartbreaking sights in my life to see their two coffins being carried through the church by twelve of their closest friends.

Denise and Kevin Branton
Denise and Kevin Branton Credit: Family handout

Kev's friends have been a huge support to me and have always invited me to their special occasions. They have helped to keep him alive in my mind by telling me stories and bringing photos. They make me feel like an adopted mum and I am truly grateful to them all.

We waited over two years for the inquest having been told originally that it would be three to six months. We were told that we had to wait and not do any press warning people about these cookers until after the inquest, which I still think was wrong and unnecessary.

The day of the inquest was horrific. All of the details that we had tried to put to the backs of our minds were dragged up again. We were given a verdict of Accidental Death which was not what we wanted.

Surely one or two deaths is an accident but not TEN lives? With a more effective and quicker product recall system, I believe that several of these lives could have been saved.

I started checking on the internet for other carbon monoxide deaths as a result of faulty kitchen goods. They are still happening. I know of others as I write this but it is very hard to find out the causes before it comes to inquest which could be years later.

I was contacted by ITV's Tonight programme to see if I was interested in making a programme about the product recalls on faulty goods in the UK. By this time I was very concerned about lack of public awareness on the issue.

Chris Choi speaks to Richard's father, Brian and Denise Branton
Chris Choi speaks to Richard's father, Brian and Denise Branton Credit: ITV/Tonight

I began filming a little reluctantly and with a great deal of trepidation and nervousness, which was eased by the total support of my partner Stuart who encouraged me at all times. I met a lot of interesting people such as the fire brigade who gave me their perspective on the huge costs involved in call outs to fires involving faulty goods.

I met Olga in London, a softly spoken lady who told me she had lost all of her possessions in her rented flat because her Beko fridge freezer caught on fire. She was very upset but her empathy for me moved me, she was so grateful that her children were not in the flat at the time.

Then there was Martin, an electrical engineer, who recollected how his Hotpoint dishwasher ignited as he walked into his kitchen one evening. His story could have ended so differently if he and his family had been in bed when it happened.

Next there was John and Erin in Doncaster. John was devastated to hear of his grandparents' deaths. He had lived with them since he was small. They died from Carbon Monoxide poisoning from another Beko manufactured cooker - the same way as Kevin.

And of course there was Brian and Wray, whose son Richard died in the incident with my son Kevin, from Carbon Monoxide poisoning from a Beko manufactured cooker. We have talked endlessly and supported each other since their untimely deaths. We have faced birthdays and anniversaries of that dreadful day together. Our worst fears are that our sons' deaths will not be the last. Unless the public are made aware, there will be more deaths happening in the future.

Richard Smith was found dead in the house he shared with Kevin Branton in Cornwall
Richard Smith was found dead in the house he shared with Kevin Branton in Cornwall Credit: Family handout

We are stronger and more determined to fight to get the laws changed regarding product recalls in this country. They need to be more efficient and thorough and there also needs to be an independent body involved, overseeing each recall and verifying the numbers of products traced and how many are still in existence.

If a death occurs due to a product, all sales of that item should be immediately suspended until it is proved to be safe. Manufacturers need to be held responsible for every single item that they produce.

There are many hundreds of thousands of recalled products sitting in homes around the UK at this very moment. They include gas cookers, fridge freezers, tumble dryers and dishwashers. People need to check the make and model of ALL their appliances against the manufacturers websites on the internet. That is the ONLY way to be sure that they are safe. These products are simply time bombs waiting to go off. I never again want to hear of anybody having to go through the same heartbreaking situation as I have.

'How Safe is Your Kitchen?: Tonight', Thursday at 7.30pm on ITV.

The views of Denise Branton do not necessarily reflect those of ITV.