Northern Ireland

George Brown admits causing deaths of teenagers

George Brown Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption George Brown pleaded guilty to a total of 20 charges on Tuesday

A Londonderry gas fitter has pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of two teenagers by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson were overcome by the gas at a holiday apartment in Castlerock, County Londonderry, in 2010.

George Brown, from Ballygawley Road, Aghadowey, had initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of manslaughter.

He had also previously denied a further 19 charges involving failures in health and safety legislation.

The charges related not just to the holiday home in Castlerock where Neil and Aaron perished, but also other private properties as well as a restaurant and caravan park in Coleraine.

They included failure to protect non-employees, such as the two former prefects from Glengormley High School, failing to ensure those fitting gas appliances were qualified, and incorrectly fitting and failing to test that appliances were correctly connected.

Neil and Aaron had been on a break in the seaside town before getting their exam results.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson were poisoned by carbon monoxide from a badly installed fire

The 18-year-old friends, from Newtownabbey, County Antrim, died on 3 August, 2010.

They were found by their parents, who went to Castlerock when they were unable to contact the young men.

Both had been poisoned by carbon monoxide from a defective flue from a gas boiler.

The police welcomed George Brown's guilty plea.

Det Ch Insp Rachel Shields said it was the first conviction of its kind in Northern Ireland.

"Aaron and Neil's deaths were tragic and prompted a wide-scale rigorous investigation on 3 August 2010, involving members of the Health and Safety Executive NI's gas safety inspection team, its major investigations team, its scientific services unit and officers from the PSNI's criminal investigation department. This investigation culminated in today's guilty plea," she said.

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Media captionDet Ch Insp Rachel Shields said it was the first conviction of its kind

"Over the course of the last three years, the families of Aaron and Neil have sought to highlight the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"It is an issue that all households should be aware of and I would remind service providers who work with installing heating systems or maintaining heating systems of the legal requirements and responsibilities that govern this area of business."

After Brown pleaded guilty to all 21 charges, the crown prosecutor said: "This is a case where victim impact reports will be obtained in respect of the families of the two deceased, and of a third young man who was seriously injured in this tragic incident."

Brown's barrister, Jonpaul Shields, confirmed pre-sentence reports would also be sought on behalf of his client.

Brown will be sentenced for the offences in March.

He was released on continuing bail.

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