Wall manslaughter trial continues

Meg Burgess
Meg Burgess was killed whilst on the way home from the shops with her mother and baby brother Photo: North Wales Police / Family

A wall which collapsed and crushed a little girl to death was not envisaged as part of the original plans to renovate the property, the owner told a jury at Mold Crown Court today.

Owner David Alan Jones said the defendant George Collier had advised him to have a wall at the front so that some of the soil from excavations on site could be put behind it.

But he said it was “absolutely incorrect” that he had instructed Collier to spread a large amount of soil on the site to avoid the cost of taking it away.

It had never been suggested to him that a structural engineer should be engaged before the wall was built, he said.

Building company director George Collier denies manslaughter on the basis of gross negligence - failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the death.

In evidence, prosecution witness Mr Jones said that he had no experience of the building trade and had taken on Mr Collier and his business partner Bryn Parry to do the job, he said.

Originally, he told the court, he had envisaged a wooden fence along the front of the property – like the one they now had – but claimed Mr Collier had suggested a wall.

He said he had no discussions about the design, thickness or materials to be used and left it to the builder.

Ronald Walters QC, defending, put it to him that the reason he had not engaged a structural engineer was because he could not afford it.

Mr Jones said that was absolutely incorrect.

“It was never suggested," he said. "You employ professional builders to do a professional job."

He said he knew nothing about the construction of the wall and at the time he did not know what a retaining wall was.

Mr Walters said that following excavations at the rear of the property for a conservatory, there had been a large amount of excess soil on the site.

He suggested that Mr Jones had instructed the defendant to spread the soil around the site, including backfilling the wall, to avoid the cost of transporting it away.

Mr Jones said that was incorrect, claiming Mr Collier had suggested backfilling the wall and said that any excess soil would have been transported from the site.

“I would have done anything necessary that would have made the end job absolutely 100 per cent correct,” he said.

The prosecution claims that it was Mr Collier’s “gross negligence” which caused Meg’s death on the morning of July 26, 2008.

By using an excavator to backfill behind the wall, Mr Collier had placed terrific “pressure and strain” on the wall, they said.

The court heard he had not taken any expert advice and had not consulted a structural engineer.

The court also heard that he had failed to construct the wall so that the blockwork was “tied” into the foundations with metal roads. He had inserted metal rods and filled the blocks with concrete to 'strengthen' it, but it did 'nothing to improve the safety of the wall.'

There were no signs to warn pedestrians using the footpath and he had 'gambled' with the safety of passers-by, said prosecuting barrister Mr Bryan Cox, QC.

Health and safety experts had found the foundations for the wall were inadequate and the mortar was too weak.

Proceeding.