Father of dead climber to pay defence costs in failed action

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The Independent Online

The bereaved father of the youngest Briton to scale Everest was dealt another blow when a judge handed him a large court bill.

David Matthews, 62, a millionaire property developer, was told he had to pay most of the defence costs after the failure of a private prosecution he brought against the trek organisers, whom he blamed for his 22-year-old son's disappearance on the world's highest mountain.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, who dismissed the businessman's action last summer, also threw out Mr Matthews' application to have his own costs paid from the public purse. Judge Rivlin said he would assess the final defence figure later.

With the case involving some seven hearings, the amount is expected to run into many tens of thousands of pounds. Mr Matthews was not at Southwark Crown Court in London to hear yesterday's ruling.

Last July the court heard how the City trader Michael Matthews, a City trader, from Fulham, West London, achieved a UK first when he reached Everest's summit in May 1999. Hours later, while descending the 29,000ft peak, a 100mph blizzard struck and he disappeared. His body has never been found.

Mr Matthews was convinced that poor organisation and faulty oxygen supplies were to blame for his son's death, and launched legal action against the organiser, Alpine Mountaineering Ltd, and three men involved in the trip.

Michael Smith, 44, a guide from Switzerland, was the last to see Michael Matthews alive. He, together with Jonathan Tinker, 47, from York, and Henry Todd, 61, from Edinburgh, faced a single manslaughter charge. The prosecution alleged that they contributed to Michael's death through gross negligence and by breaching their duty of care.

Ruling on the costs issue, Judge Rivlin said: "I am satisfied this prosecution was brought without good cause."