Man dies after getting trapped in shopping centre stairwell for three weeks

Bernard Gore, 71, could not find way out after walking through fire door which would not open from other side

Colin Drury@colin__drury
Tuesday 05 November 2019 13:19
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Man dies after getting trapped in shopping centre stairwell for three weeks

A 71-year-old man died after becoming trapped in a shopping centre stairwell for three weeks, an inquest has heard.

Bernard Gore could not find his way out of the maze of steps and corridors when he walked through a fire door at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall in Sydney, Australia.

The escape exit had slammed behind him and could not be opened from the other side.

Although his wife Angela raised the alarm within hours of him failing to meet her inside the centre as planned, police only searched the public areas of the complex.

They did not check CCTV, which would have shown Mr Gore walking through the fire door, the hearing at New South Wales Coroners Court was told on Monday.

The six to eight miles of fire exits – which are checked just once a month – were never fully searched for Mr Gore.

The retired barber from Tasmania was only found on 27 January when a maintenance worker happened to walk through the stairwell.

He was slumped forward in a semi-kneeling position.

"It appears that he had been sitting on a chair that was found near his body, and, at some stage, he had fallen forward and off the chair," Anna Mitchelmore, counsel assisting the coroner said.

She added that he could have been alive for a week or more while trapped in the stairwell.

The tragedy occurred as Mr Gore, who had the early stages of dementia, was visiting his daughter Melinda in Sydney with his wife of 50 years.

The couple had spent the morning apart and were due to meet at 1.15pm outside the mall’s branch of Woolworths – but Mr Gore never showed up.

CCTV shown to the inquest – but never checked at the time – showed him walking through a fourth-floor fire door and it shutting behind him.

A detective who took charge of the case a year after Mr Gore, known as Butch, died described the initial investigation as “poor”.

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Senior Constable Andrew Agostino said the mall should have been fully searched and eliminated completely before police looked in other areas.

The inquest continues.

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