Cornwall

Landslide 'buried woman as she slept' in Looe

The landslip and damage to Veronica Flats in Looe
Image caption Susan Norman lived in the ground-floor property of the house in Sandplace Road which was divided into three flats

A neighbour of a woman who died when a landslide engulfed her home, has told an inquest he had to clamber over a torrent of mud and water to escape.

Susan Norman, 68, died in March 2013 when the landslide, during torrential rain, poured into her flat in Looe, Cornwall, burying her in her bed.

A post-mortem report read to the jury at Truro Magistrates' Court said Mrs Norman died immediately.

The inquest is expected to last until 24 November.

More on the landslide inquest and other news from Cornwall

Mrs Norman lived in the ground-floor flat of a house split into three apartments. It was built into the hillside with a retaining wall behind the property.

The jury also heard building work had taken place to the rear of the property before the incident.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Susan Norman died immediately when she was buried by a landslide of rubble as she slept, the inquest heard

Dwayne Bown, who was asleep in one of the first floor flats, said he initially thought a tree behind the house had fallen down before the house jolted and the ground dropped in front of him.

"I then saw mud and water coming down into the landing as I was trying to get out; the entrance was blocked completely and I had to climb over dirt and water and mud to get out," he said.

In the weeks before the landslide, the court heard a bulge had formed in the wall behind the house.

Rowan Beckingham, who lived in the other first-floor flat, said in the days prior to the landslide the landlady had told him she was commissioning repairs to the wall to the rear of the property. He said he had subsequently witnessed builders "digging a hole in the cliff behind the house and pumping concrete into it".

Image caption The inquest before a jury is expected to last two weeks

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