Chelmsford car death pair killed by fumes from modified vehicle

Nikki Willis and Thomas Putt Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Nikki Willis and Ford trainee Thomas Putt were discovered dead inside his car in December

Two young people died when toxic exhaust fumes were pumped into a car's cabin after modifications had been made to the vehicle, an inquest heard.

Trainee Ford engineer Thomas Putt, 20, and shop worker Nikki Willis, 23, were discovered inside the Ford Fiesta in Fox Crescent, Chelmsford, in December.

Vents had been cut into the car bonnet and the catalytic converter removed, Chelmsford Coroners' Court was told.

Greater Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said the deaths were accidental.

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Image caption The pair were pronounced dead at the scene

Giving evidence to the inquest, Det Insp Rob Kirby described how smoke from the car's engine came up through the bonnet and into the air intake vents before passing into the cabin.

He said a carbon monoxide detector recorded levels of 400 parts per million (ppm). The maximum level the police device was capable of recording was 500 ppm.

Mr Kirby said he hoped the case would "raise awareness" of the dangers of modifying vehicles.

The inquest heard both Mr Putt, of Wren Close, Leigh-on-Sea, and Ms Willis, of Fox Crescent, Chelmsford, died from inhaling exhaust fumes.

'Terrible tragedy'

After the inquest, Mr Kirby said the deaths were a "needless event" adding: "There are inherent dangers in modifying vehicles.

"Tom was not inexperienced. He was apprenticed with Ford and had carried out lots of repairs on his vehicle.

"I would urge anybody who has carried out modifications to have their work checked by a qualified mechanic."

Charlotte Ward, of Ford, said: "This was a terrible tragedy, Tom was a popular and talented apprentice, and our thoughts remain with his family, friends and colleagues.

"The coroner's verdict cited modifications, including the removal of the catalytic converter, as a contributing factor and we do not recommend the modification of any Ford vehicle beyond the manufacture's guidelines."

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