Coroner criticises Beko for 'serious errors' over faulty cookers that led to deaths of five people

23/11/20-  30 year old Richard Smith and his 32 year old lodger Kevin Branton were found dead at the home they shared in  Saltash.
Richard Smith and Kevin Branton died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2010.

Beko committed “serious errors” when it failed to take prompt action to halt the sale of "inherently defective" gas cookers which led to the deaths of five people, a coroner has found.

Five people succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning on two separate incidents in 2010 and 2013 caused by a defect in Beko gas cookers, the inquest heard.

Assistant Cornwall Coroner Geraint Williams highlighted serious failings by the appliance company which included not telling trading standards the full extent of the problem and being too slow to withdraw the cookers and inform people who had already bought them.

Richard Smith, 30, and his friend Kevin Branton, 34, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2010 at the home that they shared in Saltash.

The Coroner criticised the company for failing to investigate two other deaths in 2008, Boris and Wilma Green, 30 days before the gas cooker used by Mr Smith and Mr Branton was purchased. 

Three years later, husband and wife John, 90, and Audrey Cook, 86, died alongside their daughter Maureen, 47, at their static caravan in Camborne.

The Coroner found they all died after accidentally turning on the grill of the appliances as uncooked food was found in the oven.

However, a defect in the cookers meant that fatal levels of carbon monoxide was produced when used with the grill doors closed.

The household appliances were manufactured in Turkey by Arcelik and have been linked to 18 deaths in the UK and Ireland due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The bodies of John Cook, his wife Audrey and their daughter Maureen were found at Tremarle Home Park in Camborne, Cornwall. Credit: PA

Arcelik knew of the dangers at the time of the deaths, but their efforts to contact purchasers had only had a 58% success rate, the inquest heard.

Richard Smith's father, Brian, said in a statement: "We believe if Beko had informed the retailers to stop the sale of these cookers when they were first made aware of the deaths in Ireland and elsewhere, we would not have been able to purchase that lethal cooker and our sons would still be alive."

He said the inquest had been a "distressing experience" for him and his wife, "especially having to relive that fateful day in November 2010 when our son died."

"However, it was essential that all the facts came out as to why a gas cooker having supposedly passed rigorous testing was able to discharge carbon monoxide with the grill door shut," he said.

Richard Smith's father Brian said if action to recall the cookers happened sooner, his son and his friend would still be alive. Credit: ITV News

He said: "Although we will never get over the loss of our son Richard whose life was cut short at the tender age of 30 and who we dearly loved and miss every day, we still have his wonderful memories."

Kevin Branton's mother Denise said: "I still truly personally believe that Beko should and could have reacted quicker and more proactively. If they had, I’m sure the cooker that killed our sons would not have been able to be purchased.

"The part that keeps me awake at night is how so many similar cookers were able to pass all EU safety standards at that time.

"I strongly urge people who know of someone who owns an older cooker to check Beko’s list of recalled cookers online as they are not all sold under the Beko name.

"My hope is that maybe by highlighting this problem, we can prevent any further deaths from occurring and prevent other families from going through the heartache and pain of losing someone dear to them."

She added: "I shall miss my son every day for the rest of my life. I never had a chance of a final goodbye, or hug or to tell him that I loved him.

"I will try to move on and put this event behind me, although I shall never ever forget him for a single day of my life. He was an always will be the most special person in my life."

60,000 cookers made by Beko's parent company Arcelik were affected by the design fault. Credit: PA

A total of 60,000 Arcelik cookers were affected by the design fault and half were sold in the UK under its Beko brand and the rest by Glen Dimplex.

The inquest heard evidence that Beko knew the cookers posed a “serious risk” to health but ignored the problem for several weeks.

Trading standards was only told of Alexis Landry’s death in Co Cork in January 2009, and it was the following month before the watchdog learned of other fatalities.

Beko was first told by the Irish authorities in November 2008 of the death of Mr Landry earlier that month after using a Glen Dimplex cooker.

Arcelik then carried out tests on all its cookers and provided Beko with a list of models that produced excessive carbon monoxide.

In December, the firm learned a coroner was investigating the deaths of pensioners Boris and Vilma Green in Doncaster, two weeks after that of Mr Landry.

“Given that the contact was known to be at the behest of a coroner dealing with a fatality, I find as a fact the failure to pursue it by Beko was a serious error,” Mr Williams said.

“It is in my opinion undoubtedly the case that an inquiry by Beko would have generated a follow-up call and more details would have been made available.

“Despite the knowledge of the telephone call on December 1 that Mr Landry’s death was now not the only fatality, Beko failed to bring this to the attention of (inspection firm) Intertek or trading standards.

“This also was a serious failing because it meant those two organisations were making decisions based on incomplete information.”

Mr Williams said Beko was told of the extent of the problems with the cookers in Ireland and knew it sold similar models in the UK.

“I was not given an explanation as to why Beko did not, as soon as those results were known, bring them to the attention of Intertek and trading standards,” Mr Williams said.

“In my judgment they had a duty to do so and the failure to do so was a serious one, meaning the two organisations who should have been closely involved were kept in the dark.

“I find as a fact that was a serious failing on the part of Beko. I do accept that Beko began to consider modifying its existing stock of cookers in the way anticipated in Ireland.”

A spokesperson for Beko plc said: "Our sympathies remain with the Branton, Smith and Cook families.

"Since these tragic incidents, we’ve continued to raise our safety standards and the testing processes our products go through have become even more robust and stringent.

"We also collaborated with the industry to get the UK and EU gas safety standards changed in 2009. The new standard helps prevent a similar tragic event from happening again.

"The cooker models involved in these incidents have been the subject of a recall for over 10 years and are no longer manufactured or sold.

"Our main objective is to ensure that every Beko product is safe for our customers."