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Young mother electrocuted in her flat

Young mother electrocuted in her flat ‘because electrician who tested her leaking boiler was UNQUALIFIED’

20th March 2014

A young mother was fatally electrocuted by 230 volts as she mopped up water from a leaking boiler in her flat because an electrician who tested it was unqualified.

Emma Shaw, 22, suffered the shock in her store cupboard as her one-year-old son Brayden played in the living room nearby – just months after the mains were inspected.

She was trying to turn off her stopcock to stop the boiler leaking but was hit by volts and lost consciousness almost immediately.

Her lifeless body was discovered by her boyfriend Andrew Cross when he returned to their flat in West Bromwich at midday on December 14, 2007.

Today, a court heard documents certifying the property as safe were filled out by an unqualified electrician – who cannot remember carrying out the tests.

Christopher Tomkins, 52, drew up and signed papers on March 8, 2006, which said he had carried out tests at the flat, exercised reasonable care, and the circuits were safe.

His work was approved by qualified supervisor Neil Hoult at Anchor Electrical and Building Services, which managed the block.

However, in a police interview, Mr Tomkins described himself as ‘a mate of an electrician’ and ‘was not qualified as an inspector’, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, told a jury: ‘The purpose of the certificate was to certify that the electrical installations were safe.

‘In fact they were far from safe and expert investigations since Emma Shaw’s death have revealed that a cable in circuit three had been penetrated by a screw during the construction phase and that caused a metal frame to become live and charged to 230 volts.

‘That occurred prior to the testing and inspection carried out by Christopher Tomkins.

Her 23-month-old son Brayden had been playing on the floor near her when she was hit

‘If Christopher Tomkins had tested circuit three properly or at all as he purported to have done and Neil Hoult signed he had then the fault that was present would have been detected immediately and the problem investigated and remedied.

‘(In police interviews) he stated he was an electrician’s mate who was used to working in a pair and he was at Jefferson Place to assist with the secondary fittings.

‘He said he was not qualified to act as a test inspector, he admitted the writing and signature was his but said he didn’t remember carrying out any electrical insulation tests.’

The court heard that during the construction a screw used to attach plasterboard to the metal frame in the wall in the store cupboard penetrated a cable causing it to become live.

As a result of the blunder, when Miss Shaw’s boiler leaked, the puddle of water in her store cupboard crept under the skirting board and touched the frame – meaning it was also live.

When Miss Shaw knelt in the puddle as she prepared to mop the floor she too became electrically charged and when she touched the earthed stopcock she suffered a huge shock.

Tomkins and Hoult, who are both from Rowley Regis, West Midlands, both deny one charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to the work they carried out in March 2006.

The trial, which is expected to last eight days, continues.