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Storm Doris death: 'Systemic maintenance failings' at firm, court hears

Tahnie Martin Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Tahnie Martin was killed when a loose panel fell off a shopping centre roof during Storm Doris

A company oversaw "serious" maintenance failings before a woman was killed by a water tank cover which blew from a roof, a court heard.

Tahnie Martin was hit by the wooden panel outside Wolverhampton's Mander Shopping Centre in February 2017.

A court heard an inspection of the roof afterwards found "over 50 recommendations for urgent action".

Cushman Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Ltd has admitted health and safety breaches.

Miss Martin, 29, from Stafford, who worked at University of Wolverhampton, had become engaged shortly before she died.

Her inquest previously found a plant room on top of the roof, from which the panel was ripped away, may not have been maintained for nearly two decades.

The start of a two-day sentencing hearing for the company which was in charge of maintenance on the building heard its centre operations manager Phil Dutton had "assumed" the plant roof had been "flat".

Three other surveys by outside contractors also made "no reference" to structures on its roof, a barrister for the company said.

Prosecuting barrister, Bernard Thorogood told Wolverhampton Crown Court the firm had overseen "systemic" and "serious" failings.

Image caption Ms Martin was killed by the panel as she walked past a coffee shop in the city centre

Mr Thorogood said a vent hood structure and two panels from the top of the water tank structure flew off because the fixings which should have held them to the brick plant room were rotten.

They were torn off, he said, by gusts of up to 59mph, with one section hitting Miss Martin while another woman, Ramal Sarpal, was also injured by the debris.

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Barrister Eleanor Sanderon, representing the company, said it did believe it had "robust" systems and "relied on competent consultants".

She added there had been "wholesale changes" to its health and safety procedures since the incident.

In a statement read to court, the company's chief executive, Colin Wilson, said he expressed his "deepest and unreserved apology and condolences" to Miss Martin's family, fiance and friends, and all those affected.

The company, which is facing a fine, will be sentenced on Tuesday.

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