09 April, 2008
A full police investigation is currently underway following the loss of Elouise Littlewood who was only 26 years of age. Initial reports suggest carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death.
In a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive, Metropolitan Police are looking into the exact cause of the carbon monoxide leak in an attempt to establish who is responsible. Although no one has yet to be charged the investigations could lead to criminal prosecution and a possible corporate manslaughter indictment.
Ms Littlewood, from Bedfont Lakes, Hounslow had occupied her home for two months prior to the tragic incident. The flat was part part-owned by Notting Hill Housing and had been built by Barrett West London, one of the country's foremost developers.
Under the terms of the contract between Notting Hill Housing and Barratt, the boilers and heating system, which had been built by one contractor and installed by a separate sub contractor, were the responsibility of the housing developer and not the association.
Fears that there have been 'multiple failures' of the gas installations in Ms Littlewood's flat have been voiced by a spokesperson for Notting Hill Housing. That said, the flat had been issued with a gas safety certificate prior to its transfer to the housing association in late 2007 and Barratt were able to confirm that all of their gas central heating systems are installed by independent CORGI-registered installers.
All parties concerned with the incident have been quick to respond. Notting Hill Housing has carried out a review of all other homes under its management and a British Gas team has begun a comprehensive check of other similar new build properties, to ensure that this remains an isolated incident.
In the estate, 122 shared ownership and 21 social rented properties are due to be checked, however, this has proven to be somewhat of a logistical nightmare as a number of homes still haven't had their gas reconnected more than a month after the incident.
A spokesperson for Barratt confirmed that they were 'profoundly shocked and saddened' by the death, a sentiment which echoes the thoughts and feelings of everyone close to Ms Littlewood and the Bedfont Lakes area.
Further information is unlikely to become available until after the police investigation has been completed. However, the incident can be considered as a warning to all social landlords.
Experience dictates that when numerous parties are involved in these types of cases it is often possible to identify at least one thing that each party could have done differently that would have prevented the incident from occurring.
Whilst that is not to say that either Barratt or Notting Hill Housing will have fallen short of their duties – the extent of their culpability will ultimately be determined by the police investigation – it acts as a reminder of the importance of having a robust gas safety system in place that is both effective and efficient in maintaining the health and safety of social tenants.