William Hill sign that fell and killed a young lawyer was ‘unsafe due to a dangerous muddle’
Jacob Marx, 27, was killed as he walked along Camden Road
01 October, 2018 — By William McLennan
A 200kg shop sign that killed a young lawyer when it fell from a Camden Town bookmakers is to be re-assembled and inspected by a jury.
The condition and weight of the William Hill sign is central to the prosecution of the gambling firm, who are on trial at Blackfrairs Crown Court accused of breaking safety laws.
Jacob Marx, 27, suffered fatal injuries when he was hit by the timber and aluminium sign as he walked along Camden Road at around 5pm on January 28, 2013.
Prosecutor James Ageros QC said that “William Hill presided over a dangerous muddle” by outsourcing building works to multiple subcontractors and “failing to connect the dots”.
Mr Marx, a New Zealander who had been living in London for six months as part of a world tour, was pronounced dead at the scene.
CCTV footage of the “fateful day” was played to the jury on Monday.
“You can see people lifting the sign,” Mr Ageros said of the footage. “It’s a heavy sign. It’s 30 stone. It took a number of people to lift it off Mr Marx.”
He said that in 2006 the heavy sign was installed on a timber “subframe” that had been in place since 1999 and was left exposed to the elements, with an absence of weather proofing to protect the wood from water damage.
He said there was no evidence that sign-makers Saltwell had discussed the suitability of the fittings with shopfitters, Acean, who were carrying out a £150,000 refurbishment of the store.
“There was something of a dangerous muddle occurring. The two contractors were not talking to each other.
“The only person who was overarching above them both was in a sense not ensuring there was any communication between the two.”
He added: “Really there was no communication at all between Acean or Saltwell pretty much through the project.”
He said the new illuminated sign “was never going to be safe on the existing subframe”.
Mr Ageros said that William Hill showed a lack of oversight, with no evidence of written “risk assessments” or “method statements” submitted by contractors.
“This is indicative of a lack of proper control of what was occurring in the project,” he said.
”You have to ask yourself the question, was this ever going to be a safe job, as there is simply no connection between the two parties.
“The party that sat above these two parties was William Hill. William Hill was, we would suggest, not exercising the correct degree of control over this contract. It was assuming they would get everything right. There was no basis for that assumption really at all.”
The 200kg sign is expected to brought to an underground carpark beneath the court for inspection by the jury later this week.
William Hill Operation Ltd is accused of one count of breaching its duty to ensure the safety of its staff an another of breaching its duty to ensure the safety of the public.
It denies the charges.