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Family 'extremely disappointed' after gas fitter spared jail

Kelly Webster and her daughter Lauren Thornton Credit: ITV Border

The family of a 36-year-old woman, and her ten-year-old daughter, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, say they are "extremely disappointed" after a gas fitter was found criminally responsible for their deaths, but spared a prison sentence.

Kelly Webster, 36, and Lauren Thornton, 10, were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes after Mr Eteson, Kelly's partner, fitted a dodgy generator on board his boat.

In a statement released by Cumbria Police, the family said Mr Eteson "has never apologised nor shown any kind of remorse":

The family are extremely disappointed with the sentencing imposed in this case. It is completely disproportionate given that two lives have been lost. We have lived with the unbearable loss of Kelly and Lauren for over two and a half years. Eteson has never apologised nor shown any kind of remorse.

The family and friends request privacy at this difficult time.”

– Family statement

Boat death case 'should act as a warning'

The Crown Prosecution Service says the sentencing of a gas fitter, whose poor work led to the deaths of his partner and her daughter, should serve as a warning.

Matthew Eteson avoided a jail term, and had his two-year sentence suspended:

As a registered gas fitter, Matthew Eteston knew the dangers of carbon monoxide and knew the risk of death if the pipework designed to evacuate the exhaust gases failed. Tragically, the poor design and construction of the work he carried out on the exhaust system directly led to the deaths of Kelly Webster and Lauren Thornton.

This case should act as a warning about the terrible consequences of such a poor standard of work in the installation of appliances. Although Matthew Eteson did not intend to cause their deaths, the jury, who heard all the evidence, found that Kelly and Lauren lost their lives because of his gross negligence, and the obvious dangers that he created. They therefore found him criminally responsible for their deaths.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with Kelly and Lauren’s families and friends at this time, who have been left devastated by their deaths.”

– Joanna White, Senior Crown Prosecutor from CPS


Finding Jasper... one year on

Jasper Credit: ITV Border

One year ago today, Jasper the dog was finally found, after he went missing for three days in the Lake District.

A massive social media campaign followed - #FindJasper - and the border collie's photo was shared more than 250,000 times.

Langdale Mountain Rescuers urge walkers not to rely on helicopter rescue

Credit: Wasdale Mountain Rescue

The Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team is asking people not to rely on being rescued by helicopter when out on the fells, after one its busiest weekends of the year.

The team had to call on help from neighbouring mountain rescue teams when it was called out four times in one day on Saturday.

Two of the rescues were serious and poor conditions caused a mountain rescue member to need help, but the team says the fourth rescue could have been prevented with better preparation.

The team says helicopters are only used when someone is seriously hurt and they often have to come from an hour away.

Windermere Carbon Monoxide deaths: Gas fitter found GUILTY of manslaughter

Kelly Webster and her daughter Lauren Thornton Credit: ITV Border

A gas fitter has been found guilty of causing the deaths of his partner and her 10-year-old daughter on board a boat on Lake Windermere.

Kelly Webster, 36, and Lauren Thornton, 10, were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes after Kelly’s partner, Matthew Eteson fitted a dodgy generator on board his boat.

The boat, Arniston, was harboured on Lake Windermere at the time of the tragedy.

Prior to the tragedy on Easter Monday 2013, Eteson - a qualified Gas Safe engineer - had fitted a silencer to the generator, joining copper piping to steel using solder and jubilee clips.

He then brought the generator below deck to power a fan heater to warm the cabin where Kelly and Lauren slept.

On the afternoon of April 1, Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, woke feeling unwell as Kelly and Lauren napped blow deck.

He told police he thought he was having heart problems and made his way above deck to get some fresh air.

But minutes later he returned to find Kelly and Lauren, of Leyland, Lancs, had been overcome by fumes from the petrol powered generator.

Eteson, who throughout the trial sat outside the dock, supported by his father, denied criminal negligence manslaughter.

He did not give evidence as the court heard he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after discovering Kelly and Lauren’s bodies.

However the jury at Preston Crown Court unanimously found him guilty of their manslaughter as he ought to have known the modifications he made to the generator were not suitable and that it was unsafe to bring an outdoor generator indoors.

As the guilty verdicts were returned members of the Webster and Thornton families sobbed and comforted each other in the public gallery.

Eteson and his father looked down.

High court judge Mr Justice Turner adjourned the sentence hearing until November 13 to allow pre-sentence and psychiatric reports to be prepared.

In a prepared statement on behalf of both families, Lauren’s dad Neil Thornton said:

Throughout this trial it has become clear to the families of both Kelly and Lauren that the modifications carried out by Matthew Eteson directly contributed to their premature deaths.

His conscious decision to install an improvised exhaust system on a generator within a confined space was doomed to fail and ultimately led to Kelly and Lauren losing their lives.

This should serve as a warning to others of the dangers of do-it-yourself work and a failure to properly risk assess the work and to the potential consequences of death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The families of both Kelly and Lauren would like to thank their family and friends for their love and support throughout this difficult time.

– Neil Thornton


WATCH: Claife Viewing Station re-opens to visitors

One of the earliest tourist attractions in the Lake District has been restored and re-opened to the public.

The "Claife Viewing Station" on the western shore of Windermere has been attracting people since as far back as the 1770s when it was recommended in a guidebook of the time.

It allowed those early tourists to get a good view of the lake and the mountains, at a time when just a glimpse of the landscape was considered thrilling!

Tim Backshall has been to look around it.

Court hears from Eteson: 'I looked around and I could just see them both there'

Kelly Webster and her daughter Lauren Thornton Credit: ITV Border

The moment a gas fitter found his partner and her daughter dead on their boat in the Lake District after succumbing to the effects of carbon monoxide, has been described in court.

Matthew Eteson, 42, is on trial after pleading not guilty to the manslaughter of Kelly Webster, 36, and her daughter Lauren Thornton, 10, by gross negligence.

Jurors were told that Eteson had fabricated an exhaust system for the petrol-driven portable generator used to power the mains appliances on the boat, moored on Lake Windermere, Cumbria.

The two were found in their bedrooms on the second-hand Bayliner 285 motor cruiser Arniston, after the outdoor generator was taken below deck despite carbon monoxide sensors being disabled.

Eteson, who had fallen asleep, said he woke feeling "something was not right" before stumbling down the stairs of boat.

In a statement read to Preston Crown Court he said:

I looked around and I could just see them both there"

– Matthew Eteson

Preston Crown Court heard that the family had been at a 50th birthday party in March 2013, before returning to their boat.

The following morning Eteson said he had felt sick and went to buy the family lunch from the chip shop before returning.

He said that Kelly had told him "I'm freezing" and the fan heater was put on at half power.

The court was told that Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, Cheshire, had fabricated the exhaust system with a silencer because it was "noisy" for fellow neighbours and had fitted it into the engine compartment.

Jurors were told that the generator was running as they ate their lunch before Eteson fell asleep at the table below deck.

Speaking about the generator during a police interview under caution he said:

It didn't sound like it was over-revving. I didn't know how long that was on for."

– Matthew Eteson
Matthew Eteson's boat Credit: ITV Border

But jurors heard that when he awoke he "couldn't move" and initially believed he was having reoccurring problems with his heart.

He made his way onto the deck and said he proceeded to bang and shout for help but believed that Kelly and her daughter had gone shopping.

He said he could not remember if he turned the generator off then or later.

In the police statement he said:

I just knew there was something not right with me that's when I decided there was no-one about, I didn't know if they had gone shopping.

I couldn't properly move my fingers. I remember getting up there and thinking 'what's wrong with me'."

– Matthew Eteson

He said upon finding their bodies he tried looking for his phone before dialling 999. As the evidence was read a member of the public ran out of the courtroom sobbing.

Eteson too began to cry before being comforted by his father who has been allowed to sit beside him during proceedings.

The court was told that the carbon monoxide alarms on the boat had never been tested. During his voluntary interview in April 2013 he said he had been aware of the dangers of fumes.

He added that he had sought advice from mechanical friends and said the construction "wasn't something I took lightly".

The court was told that he had taken the generator off the boat to make moderations to it by fitting it with a silencer. He fitted the system the day before the deaths.

The case continues.

Making room for a view

Ullswater after the clear up Credit: Gordon Lightburn

The iconic views of Ullswater’s western shore are open to residents and visitors once more, thanks to a project to clear scrub and manage trees that were increasingly obscuring the view.

Local residents identified the views along the lake shore were becoming increasingly covered by trees, with residents and visitors unable to fully appreciate the beauty of the lake.

This led to the launch of Felling for Views – a project led by the Lake District National Park and Eden Rivers Trust as part of the Ullswater Valley Plan.

Ullswater before the clear up project Credit: Gordon Lightburn

Since August volunteers have undertaken work including tree thinning, scrub clearance and control.

It is hoped it will also help improve safety along the A592 and have a positive effect on the lake shore.

Projects ranger for Lake District National Park, Dylan Jackman, said:

This has been a real success story for Valley Planning. We listened to the community and put Felling for Views into action, creating some stunning vistas from the northern section of the lake that are already benefitting visitors and residents.

It’s a great start and we plan to continue working with others to reveal further view across the lake.”

– Dylan Jackman

Man denies manslaughter over Lake District boat fumes deaths

Kelly Webster and her daughter Lauren Thornton Credit: ITV Border

A court has heard that a registered gas fitter, who brought an outdoor generator below the deck of his boat despite knowing that carbon monoxide sensors were disabled, awoke to find his partner and her 10-year-old daughter dead.

42 year old Matthew Eteson pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence after jurors were told that he had fabricated an exhaust system for the portable generator used to power the mains appliances on the boat, moored on Lake Windermere, Cumbria.

His partner Kelly Webster, 36, and her daughter Lauren Thornton were found in their sleeping area on the boat with fatal levels of carbon monoxide in their bodies.

He denies the charge.

Preston Crown Court was told that Eteson, of Appleton Road, Cheshire, who was "an experienced boat owner", had installed the exhaust system with a silencer because it was "noisy".

But the court was told that it had been of "poor design" and the materials he had used were unsuitable causing the system release the gases.

Mr Eteson denies manslaughter Credit: ITV Border

The family had gone to the Lake District for the Easter bank holiday, however on the afternoon of April 1st 2013 Eteson removed the generator from the deck and used it to power a heater in one of the boat's bedrooms.

The court was told that there had been no warning to the build-up of the gas because the carbon monoxide sensors had previously been disabled.

For the prosecution Mr Graham Reeds QC said that the mother and daughter were found dead in the positions in which they had slept. Eteson had been sleeping in a separate compartment further away from the generator but also suffered the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is not alleged that he intended any harm to come to either victim.

Mr Reeds said from Eteson's training as a Gas Safe installer, he was "well aware" of the risks to human life through exposure to carbon monoxide.

He said:

Had they not been disabled they would have alerted the occupants to the build-up of carbon monoxide in the sleeping quarters.

The defendant was well aware of the fact that carbon monoxide sensors fitted to his boat were not working.

Good practice would decide against bringing an outdoor generator indoors."

– Mr Graham Reeds QC

The prosecution said it was their case that Eteson was "criminally responsible" for their deaths.

Mr Reeds added:

It was found that a copper pipe had been crudely attached to the steel exhaust outlet of the generator with self-tapping screw.

Leading from the exhaust outlet to the silencer was a section of copper pipework. This included a joint that had been fashioned using solder which has a relatively low melting point.

It is very poor practice to attach metal to copper or to use solder in joints between copper pipes that will be subjected to very high temperatures."

– Mr Graham Reeds QC

Mr Eteson denies the charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The case continues.

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