Mother of toddler who fell from high-rise in Leeds had complained about window, inquest hears

Exodus Eyob, who fell to his death from a seventh-floor flat in Leeds.
Exodus Eyob was almost two when he died. Credit: PA

The mother of a toddler who fell to his death from a seventh-floor flat has told an inquest she reported the windows being unsafe to the council "many times".

Exodus Eyob was almost two when he fell from a high-rise block in Saville Green, Leeds, on 2 July 2022.

He had gone into his older sister's bedroom and climbed onto her bed, which was under the window.

An inquest into his death has heard the rotating window had a restrictor fitted to stop it from opening more than a few inches, but this was not engaged when Exodus fell.

The boy’s mother, Birikti Berihew, said the restrictor was "very accessible to children to play with".

Ms Berihew said she had asked the council to fit a secondary cable to the window to stop her younger children opening it.

Her daughter told the inquest that the window would still swivel open "if you pushed it with any force" when the restrictor was on.

Emergency services at the scene on Saville Green.

Ms Berihew moved into the flat in 2010 and lived there with her three children including her adult daughter, Reem Semere.

Ms Semere told the hearing her brothers were not allowed in her bedroom and that she would lock the room when she went out.

On the day of Exodus' death, Ms Semere left her bedroom at about 1pm, the inquest was told.

She told the hearing she had opened the window "about six inches" the night before because it was hot – and had not closed it before leaving the room.

Ms Semere said she went into the living room to hug her brothers before going to the kitchen to greet her mother.

She noticed Exodus was missing when she returned.

Ms Berihew and Ms Semere searched the flat and went into Ms Semere’s unlocked room to find the window "more open than it had been".

Ms Semere said: "I just kept staring at it thinking, 'Something’s off'.

"My mum came in my room. Her first instinct was to get on the bed and look out of the window."

Exodus fell from a block of flats in Saville Green.

Ms Semere, who was 19 at the time, said her mother started screaming when she saw Exodus lying on the ground below.

He was pronounced dead at Leeds General Infirmary.

Speaking through a Tigrinya interpreter, Ms Berihew said she had asked the council "many times" to fit a more secure device on to the window, like one she had seen in a neighbour’s flat.

"The restrictor was very easily accessible for children. Any child can roll it," she told the hearing.

"They have cars with rotating wheels. Any circular thing is tempting for them to play with.

The inquest was told Leeds City Council had a record of Ms Berihew raising concerns about windows once in November 2020, but she told the hearing she complained several more times in person.

She agreed that the language barrier "may have been a problem" on those occasions.

Asked by senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin if she would disagree with an expert witness who said the restrictor was working satisfactorily, Ms Berihew said: "Yes, because this is the house I lived in for 12 years and nobody else can tell me otherwise because I know it better."

The family’s solicitors, Ison Harrison, said Ms Berihew was concerned about one of her children falling from the window after becoming aware of the death of six-year-old Liam Shackleton, who fell from the window of a neighbouring tower block at Lincoln Green in 2011.

Before the inquest, Ison Harrison said Exodus' family was concerned that there are a number of tower blocks in the area with the same windows and that in small bedrooms, where the bed goes under the window, children can gain easy access to windows and the safety feature can be easily disengaged.

Robert Goor, deputy head of property management at Leeds City Council, said his inspection after Exodus' death found there were "no defects with that window system".

Mr Goor told the inquest it was not the council’s standard policy to fit cable locks such as the one requested by Ms Berihew, but that they had been offered to residents as part of a "one-off campaign" following Liam Shackleton’s death.

He said: "A cable restrictor can be removed with a key. If it’s disengaged there’s nothing restricting the window, so it could provide some appeasement but it could also give false security."

The inquest continues.

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