Jury out in inflatable sculpture death trial

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The Independent Online

The jury was sent out today in the manslaughter trial of an artist whose inflatable sculpture blew away, killing two women inside.

Maurice Agis, 77, denies killing Claire Furmedge, 38, and Elizabeth Collings, 68, by gross negligence when his walk-in Dreamspace exhibit flipped into the air on a sunny day in July 2006 at the Riverside Park in Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

As the trial at Newcastle Crown Court enters its fourth week, Mrs Justice Cox sent the jury of six men and six women out to consider its verdicts.

Agis, of Kirton Gardens, Bethnal Green, east London, also denies breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, in relation to staff employed at the site.

During the trial, the prosecution alleged Agis did not properly anchor the structure, which was on a national tour.

Paul Sloan QC, prosecuting, said: "The defendant's conduct was so bad in all the circumstances, having regard to the risk of death involved if the structure broke free from its moorings, that it can only be categorised as gross negligence and therefore amounting to manslaughter."

The artist did not give evidence, and no defence witnesses were called.

His barrister, Timothy Langdale QC, told the jury the artist "did not want this to happen, was not looking for it to happen, and he was not expecting it to happen".