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Judge to rule on blame for Ashford tragedy


A HIGH Court judge was this week asked to decide who was to blame for the Ashford building collapse which claimed the lives of four building workers in 1995.

Contractor E P Wickens and Sons, responsible for constructing the building in 1969 and extending it three years later, has denied responsibility.

The now defunct employer of the four men, John Lay and Co, and structural engineer RJ Watkinson and Partners also deny responsibility.

All three acknowledge someone is to blame and Mr Justice Bell is being askedto decide whether one, two or all three of them are. The case was brought by Sylvia Berwick, the widow of one of the victims.

The three firms' attempt to shorten the proceedings by presenting a written agreement to the court on the apportionment of blame was rejected by Mr Justice Bell.

He said he had 'no intention' of rubber-stamping any deal without giving Mrs Berwick a chance to take further legal advice.

Mrs Berwick's carpenter husband Peter, site agent Ronald Martin and labourers Richard Barnes and Mark Molloy died when the building fell on top of them.

Simon Brown QC, for Wickens, said all three firms denied liability, 'but all accept that at least one will be liable to damages'.

The hearing continues.