Roofer on trial for manslaughter after friend’s fatal fall

Posted On 27 Apr 2021 at 1:57 pm

48 Boundary Road, where the fall happened

A roofer who employed his friend to help fix a roof took “absolutely no steps” to keep him safe before a fall which led to his death, a court heard.

Simon Bigg, 56, is on trial for the manslaughter of Mark Willis, who died in November 2018 following the fall from a roof in Boundary Road, Hove. He denies the charges.

A jury at Hove Crown Court has heard Bigg put up no scaffolding, no protective edging, no harness and not even special shoes, even though Mr Willis – a former marine – had no experience of roofing.

Opening the prosecution case at Hove Crown Court yesterday, Jacqueline Carey said: “When asked what happened, the defendant told the police that Mr Willis had lent over to clear the gutter whilst standing on the sloped part of the roof and he fell.

“He said that Mr Willis had taken it on himself to clear the gutter. Biggs said that Mr Willis had only been working for him for a few weeks and had trained Mr Willis.

“He said he had harnesses in the van but would only use those if working on a roof that was the height of the main property.

“He said he had recorded a risk assessment ‘in his head’.”

She added: “Mr Bigg accepts that, in employing Mr Willis on this job, he owed Mr Willis a duty of care and the prosecution say that in failing to take any measures to prevent or mitigate the risk of injury or death, Bigg breached his duty because he failed to act as the reasonably competent and careful roofer would have done and in doing so caused Mr Willis’ death.

“Those breaches – his total inaction to keep Mr Willis safe – were truly exceptionally bad.”

Bigg, who ran Biggin Roofing from Buckingham Place in Brighton, had been asked to inspect the roof of a flat at the rear of 48 Boundary Road managed by Town and City Residential Letting, for whom he had worked before.

Bigg inspected the roof on 14 November, and arranged to do the work on 23 November.

Mr Willis, 55, fell at about 11am, leaving him with fractures to his foot, multiple ribs, left shoulder bone and his spine.

He also had a small bleed on the brain, which increased over the next few days while he was in the high dependency ward at the Royal Sussex.

An operation to remove the build-up blood was successful, but revealed unsurvivable damage to the brain and the following day, his family agreed to turn off his life support.

When interviewed by police, Ms Carey said, Bigg said he had decided no safety measures were needed as the roof had a shallow pitch and they would not be working near the edge.

He said he had noticed Mr Willis had been wearing unsuitable shoes and had mentioned this to him.

She said Paul Friday, a specialist HSE inspector, said his assessment was that zero safety measures had been taken.

The trial continues.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I cannot believe anybody would hire this so-called roofer again. Such a lot of rubbish about the angle of the roof. One can have a calamity upon a stepladder a few feet off the ground if it is not properly balanced. Shocked.

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