The grieving parents of a baby boy killed by a falling lamp post have accused a coroner's court of failing to provide answers about their son's death. Tommy Hollis suffered a devastating head injury when the lamp post toppled over onto his buggy, which was being pushed by his nanny in Chiswick on February 23, 2010. He died in hospital 48 hours later, on the eve of his first birthday.
An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death, after deliberating for more than three hours, having been directed to do so by Coroner Elizabeth Pygott.
Ms Pygott had not allowed the jury to deliver a verdict of unlawful killing, despite submissions made by the lawyer representing Tommy's parents Kate and Chris Hollis. Workman Kelvin Elmore had cut a metal plate supporting the lamp post five days before the accident, thinking it was part of an abandoned tram line, the inquest at West London Coroner's Court heard. He was attempting to clear underground obstacles so that Virgin Media cables could be moved near Chiswick Town Hall as part of a council road re-widening scheme. Mr Elmore, of construction firm McNicholas, did not give evidence in person during the three-day inquest after taking legal advice, but in a statement read to the inquest said he wished he could have taken Tommy's place.
Tommy's parents, who also have an eight-month old son, Jack, are now pursuing legal action over the death and say their sorrow was "compounded" by the way the inquest was conducted.
Speaking outside the court, with her husband's arm around her, Mrs Hollis said: "We came here knowing it would be an extremely challenging time for us.
"However, we did not expect our upset and anguish to be compounded by what we feel was the coroner's decision to exclude from consideration questions and evidence that might lead us to better understand how our son, Tommy, was killed in February 2010.
"We feel let down that crucial witnesses were not called or declined to answer questions. In particular, Kelvin Elmore, who cut the plate, chose not to give evidence and explain to the court, in person, why he did what he did. Despite what has been reported, Mr Elmore is not an engineer.
"Also, Hounslow Borough Council, under whose control these works were carried out, have been notably absent from these proceedings.
"We would also like know why there was no engineer on site at or around the time of the cut to the lamp post when it was apparent that the job was becoming more complicated and how no one realised that the plate was connected to the lamp post despite it being so close."
Mrs Hollis, senior legal counsel at GE Capital, added: "We know that nothing will bring back Tommy but we hope that by continuing to try to find the answers this court failed to find, nothing like it can ever happen again."
Their lawyer Sally Moore, of law firm Leigh Day & Co, said: "We are going to be pursuing those responsible, having reviewed the evidence that has come out of the inquest. The family has been greatly disappointed with how the inquest has been conducted. The scope has been narrow to the nth degree. That was not at their request. We have tried to have a broad investigation but this coroner was not willing to allow that."