Fireplace tragedy: charges dropped against builders

Undated handout photo of Matthew Green, a four-year-old boy died who after a stone mantelpiece collapsed and crushed his chest, an inquest heard today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday December 16 2008. Green was left with severe chest injuries after the 110lb stone lintel fell on him at his home in Towcester, Northants, in October 2005. An inquest into his death at Rushden & Diamonds Football Club, Irthlingborough, Northants, heard today that Matthew had been rushed to hospital by air ambulance but could not be saved. See PA story INQUEST Mantelpiece. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Undated handout photo of Matthew Green, a four-year-old boy died who after a stone mantelpiece collapsed and crushed his chest, an inquest heard today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday December 16 2008. Green was left with severe chest injuries after the 110lb stone lintel fell on him at his home in Towcester, Northants, in October 2005. An inquest into his death at Rushden & Diamonds Football Club, Irthlingborough, Northants, heard today that Matthew had been rushed to hospital by air ambulance but could not be saved. See PA story INQUEST Mantelpiece. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

The parents of a boy who died after a badly-fitted fireplace collapsed and killed him, said they were “very disappointed” with a decision to drop the charges against the firm that built their home.

Four-year-old Matthew Green suffered fatal injuries when the 110lb (50kg) stone mantelpiece fell on him at his home in Towcester, in October 2005.

At an inquest in 2008, his parents, David and Gail, described it as an accident which should never have happened.

A lack of mortar fixing the mantelpiece to the fireplace contributed to the death when it collapsed on top of Matthew, causing fatal chest injuries, the inquest heard.

Kristian Childs, a Northampton-based stonemason, who trades as KD Childs Stonework, in Billing Road, admitted breaching health and safety rules. His company fitted the stone mantelpiece, in the house built by Persimmon Homes.

Persimmon Homes (Midlands) and its York-based parent company, Persimmon Homes, also faced charges of allegedly failing “to ensure persons not in employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety”.

However, at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday, almost seven years after Matthew’s death, the charges against Persimmon were dropped after the discovery of previously “unused” material, which made the case “untenable”. It revealed “significant inconsistencies” within the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation.

Speaking after the hearing, Matthew’s parents said they were “very disappointed” with the HSE’s decision not to proceed with the prosecution.

Persimmon is likely to be able to reclaim defence costs. Childs will be sentenced in June.