Inquest Death of university lecturer is ruled an accident
ACORONER has voiced her concern at the lack of electrical safety checks on rented properties after hearing how a respected university lecturer was electrocuted by a faulty immersion heater at his Cotswold farmhouse home.
The family of popular Professor John Alliston, 70, say he would not have died if there had been legislation requiring landlords to get electrical safety certificates on their properties.
Mr Alliston was killed when metal fittings in the house he had just rented with his wife Petey became ‘live’ due to the lack of safety measures such as a residual current protection device.
Coincidentally, the government started considering the issue of electrical safety in rented homes not long after the professor’s death in 2017 and a new working party set up to draft legislation is due to meet for the first time later this month.
But following a two-day inquest this week into Mr Alliston’s death the Gloucestershire coroner, Katie Skerrett, is now considering whether to write to the government recommending that the proposed new legislation is rushed through to prevent future similar tragedies.
She said she will consider over the next 10 days whether she should send a ‘Preventing Further Deaths’ report to the government.
The inquest jury recorded a conclusion that Mr Alliston’s death at Coates, near Cirencester, on June 8, 2017 was an accident.
The jury forewoman stated: “The electrical fault was a defective heating element in the water boiler, which caused the exposed conductive parts to become live.
“On contact with a live exposed conductive part, Mr Alliston was fatally electrocuted.
“This occurred due to the absence of Residual Current Protection, namely Equipotential Bonding and a Residual Current Device.
“The house was not checked for electrical safety prior to rental. There is currently no requirement under legislation for mandatory electrical safety checks for rented properties.”
Professor Alliston’s widow Petey said after the hearing: “I think it is extremely important, going forward, that RCDS are made a legal requirement. Gas Safety is covered by legislation at the moment but not electrical.
“I think the inquest jury have reached the right conclusion. My husband was electrocuted because of various inadequacies and electricians not doing a safe and proper job in that house.”
“His death is a waste, not just for our family but for all the people he helped in the past and all the people he would have helped in the future - and there would have been many.”
Professor Alliston was a lecturer at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he had worked for 20 years.
More than 600 past and present students and colleagues attended an event in his memory at the college after his death.
During the inquest Mrs Alliston told how she returned home on June 8 to find her husband lying in the back garden clutching a piece of wire which had burnt his fingers.
He had been electrocuted while gardening at the rear of the farmhouse they had rented only a week or so earlier.
The wire and a length of copper pipe protruded from the rear and were designed to release water pressure if the boiler inside became faulty.
But a health and safety expert told thei nquest that the boiler equipment and the pipe and cable had become live because of faulty immersion heater in the boiler. This would have been prevented if two safety measures had been in place - an RCD (residual current device) and earth bonding of all the metal equipment - to prevent electrocution. But neither system had been installed.
Vicktoria Viniczai, who worked as a caretaker for house owner Bledisloe Holdings Ltd, said the farmhouse had not been lived in from 2013 until the Allistons moved in.
It had been painted and refurbished with new bathroom, kitchen and carpets prior to them arriving and was ‘nice and clean.’
There had been no concerns about the electricity system in the house that she was aware of, she said.
Professor John Alliston