Gas fitter blamed for pair's deaths

Two elderly friends died of carbon monoxide poisoning when a gas fitter allegedly failed to properly fix the central heating boiler at one of their homes, a court heard today.











The bodies of Margaret Eileen Powell, 72, and Thomas Gwyn Morgan, 74, were found slumped on a sofa at Mrs Powell's home in Hendre Close, Brecon, mid Wales, on 16 December, 2006.



Self-employed gas fitter Peter Tongue, 60, of Llanspyddid, near Brecon, denies two counts of manslaughter and seven offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.



Cardiff Crown Court heard that Tongue had attended Mrs Powell's home on 4 December, 2006, to carry out repairs on her ducted warm air central heating boiler.



Peter Davies, prosecuting, said that when the boiler was examined, part of it was found to be congested with soot.



"As a consequence, it was giving out carbon monoxide and giving it out in lethal quantities," Mr Davies said.



He said the prosecution alleged Tongue was responsible for the deaths "because when he carried out work for Mrs Powell he failed to carry out work on her central heating system properly".



He said: "It is alleged he carried out work on an appliance of a type he didn't understand ... and took no steps to find out what he should do with that type of machine to do it safely and efficiently.



"He ignored clear and obvious signs of trouble."



Mr Davies said: "There was evidence of a build up of soot inside the workings of the heater, therefore the prosecution say it was not a case of a simple oversight.



"It was a case of a man taking on a job he wasn't competent to do with the result he left the appliance working in potentially lethal conditions."



Mr Davies said Tongue managed to get the boiler working and Mrs Powell paid him £60 for the job, but he failed to detect the blockage of soot which caused carbon monoxide to be emitted into the house.



Tongue was Corgi registered and had worked in the gas industry all his working life, Mr Davies said.



He described Mrs Powell as an active woman who still worked part time as a receptionist in an optician's.



Mr Morgan lived with his son in Cwmavon, Port Talbot, but regularly visited Mrs Powell, a widow he had been friends with for six years.



Mr Davies said the pair were last seen by a neighbour at about 3.30pm on 16 December going into Mrs Powell's house.



When they were found the following day, the oven was on and contained the remains of two burnt jacket potatoes. An opened pizza box was on the kitchen work top.



Mr Davies told the jury: "Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas, produced by the incomplete burning of carbon based fuels.



"Carbon monoxide can kill quickly without warning."



He said that when tests were carried out on the boiler after it was cleaned of soot, it worked efficiently without producing carbon monoxide.



It was gross negligence on Tongue's part that led to the friends' deaths, he said, as he owed them both a duty of care to carry out work to recognised standards, competence and efficiency and failed to do so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own