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Caretaker denies manslaughter charge after toddler falls to her death (30 January 2014)

Date: 30/01/2014
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Caretaker denies manslaughter charge after toddler falls to her death

Sheffield Crown Court has heard how a two-year-old girl fell 60 feet to her death, after a maintenance worker failed to replace a pane of glass in the safety barrier of a fourth floor walkway.

Ryaheen Banismuslem’s mother Olaz Fatle told the court that her daughter fell through the gap left by the missing pane of glass after the caretaker Robert Warner did not replace it immediately during routine maintenance.

The court heard that Ryaheen had been playing in a communal garden area on the fourth floor with her five-year-old brother at the Wicker Riverside apartments in Sheffield city centre, when she wandered off.

Mrs Fatle said she could not find her daughter but had seen a gap in a barrier along the walkway two weeks’ before the accident – and had placed a bench in front of the gap.

On the day her daughter was killed, Mrs Fatle said she saw three women on the walkway who told her, “She was here”. The three women were looking down towards the ground and when Mrs Fatle looked through the gap she saw her daughter lying on the ground below. The court heard that the little girl had died almost immediately from her injuries in the fall.

Ryaheen’s father Hikmak Banimuslem had come to the UK from Iraq to study for a PhD in material physics at Sheffield University.

The court heard that Robert Warner, 45, had 20 years’ experience as a maintenance worker and builder – and had invoiced the maintenance company of the block Allsopp Residential Investment Management (ARIM) for two panes of glass for the external walkways on 14 June, two weeks before Ryaheen fell to her death.

However, it is alleged Warner replaced one pane of glass on the walkway by removing another from elsewhere and failed to replace the second pane of glass, but retained all the money he had invoiced for – a total of £176. The court heard that various witnesses had seen panes of glass missing from the walkways on the ground floor and fourth floor at various times.

However, Warner told police that he had checked all the panels in the safety barriers of the exterior walkways just two days before Ryaheen died and there had been no missing panels or parts, or broken areas.

The court heard that Warner had had his work schedule reduced from five days a week to just two.

However, the prosecution told the court that a panel was missing from the fourth floor of the walkway at the time of the accident and Warner was the only person who had reason to remove it.

“This accident was caused by the defendant's negligent conduct.
“The prosecution say he removed the barrier from the walkway, he failed to replace it and did nothing to prevent access to the walkway – and created a very dangerous state of affairs, and did nothing to warn of any obvious danger.”
Robert Warner, 45, denies a single charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

The trial continues.

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