Inquest into death of cabbie killed by falling masonry

The inquest has begun into the death of a woman whose taxi was crushed by falling masonry from a building in High Holborn.

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Cabbie inquest: Kylie Minogue's guitarist tells how building "fell from the sky"

Kylie Minogue's guitarist has said he and his girlfriend narrowly dodged death on Valentine's Day after a building fell "out of the sky" - crushing the taxi he was in and killing the driver. Luke Fitton had enjoyed a romantic dinner with his girlfriend at Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen restaurant and the taxi was driving along High Holborn when masonry struck it.

A large chunk of debris landed on his chest just centimetres from his face. Taxi driver Julie Sillitoe was hit by the cement and killed almost instantly in the accident, which happened at around 11pm.

Julie Sillitoe died when her Skoda Octavia was crushed by masonry falling from a building in High Holborn Credit: Metropolitan Police

"Quite instantly, I felt I had a huge piece of concrete on me, and it just seemed to go from absolute silence and normality to the complete opposite. "I didn't understand what was going on. I was conscious, I was screaming and screaming because the pain was so blinding."

– Luke Fitton

He said that he was overwhelmed by dizziness and confusion, and spent what seemed "like an eternity" calling out to his girlfriend to check she was okay.

"People were trying to see what was going on and help, and I remember screaming to them to get this piece off me. Some piece of concrete. I'm not sure how much time was actually passing, but it felt like an eternity. Eventually, I got some kind of response from my girlfriend who was speaking to the people in the street. I was screaming, shouting, trying to get whatever was on me off. It just felt like it was not stopping going down, it was crushing, crushing, crushing."

– Luke Fitton

According to his website, Mr Fitton joined Minogue's live band as lead guitarist in October 2010 and performed with her on the Kylie Aphrodite Les Folies world tour.

Cabbie inquest: building control officer inspected roof

Albert Grant, principal building control officer for the borough of Camden said he inspected the building that night and the following day, when he managed to gain access to the roof. He said the five-storey building, occupied by an English language school, looked undamaged, besides the missing triangular lintel.

"I arrived at 11.55pm.'I got out at Holborn Station and quickly identified a lot of commotion.'It was quite dark, there were no lights on building. You couldn't really get a clear view."

– Albert Grant, Camden's principal building control officer


Cabbie's widow wanted her to stay off work

The widower of a taxi driver killed on Valentine's Day by falling building debris asked her to stay off work because of high winds - but she refused so she could buy him a birthday present. Mother-of-three Julie Sillitoe, 49, was killed when large pieces of masonry fell from a building in High Holborn, crushing her. Her two passengers narrowly escaped with their lives after the chunks of cement fell just centimetres from their heads, an inquest has heard.

Workmen clear debris at the scene in Kingsway, opposite Holborn Tube station Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

Her widower, security consultant Steve Sillitoe, told St Pancras Coroner's Court, how he pleaded with his wife not to go to work because of the bad weather. But she shrugged off his concerns and went out to work as normal at around 8pm. He said: "She came up and said 'I'm going to go to work now'. It was very windy outside, it was bad weather. I said to her 'Do you have to go to work? Why don't you take the night off?' "She said 'I have to go to work, I have to buy your birthday present'."

The scene in High Holborn Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

That night she picked up a young couple in her taxi at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant Bread Street Kitchen in the City. But as they drove through High Holborn shortly after 11pm masonry large pieces of cement fell from a building, crushing her Skoda Octavia. Ms Sillitoe, from Finsbury in north London, had to be cut from the wreckage but attempts to resuscitate her failed and she died at the scene.

Julie Sillitoe died when masonry fell on her car during high winds Credit: Metropolitan Police

"She was extremely family orientated - with her granddaughter and her sons. Shortly before she learnt that (her son) Ben's partner was pregnant again with a girl, which she was overjoyed at ... It is a number of months since Julie was killed, and every single day I miss her very much."

– Steve Sillitoe, speaking at the inquest into his wife's death
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