Luxury Uttlesford hotel owner facing health and safety charges over deaths of couple who drowned in pool

Down Hall

Down Hall - Credit: Archant

The owner of a luxury Uttlesford hotel is facing a Crown Court prosecution under health and safety laws over the deaths of two guests who drowned in a swimming pool.

A hospitality company is also accused of health and safety breaches following the incident at Down Hall country House Hotel in Hatfield Heath.

The matter was transferred to Chelmsford Crown Court by Chelmsford magistrates yesterday (Thursday) after they were told the case was too serious for them to deal with as any fines imposed could potentially run into “hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

The bodies of nursing student Josephine Foday, 22, of Barth Road, Plumstead, London, and married father-of-two Komba Kpakiwa, 31, of Arthur Street, Erith, Kent, were found floating in the hotel’s pool at about 7pm on April 27 2013. An inquest in May last year recorded that they both died accidentally.

The couple, who were having an affair, had been staying at the 99-room hotel for Ms Foday’s birthday weekend when the tragedy occurred.

Veladail Hotels Ltd, of Mayfair, London, which owns Down Hall, and hospitality company Thenhotels LLP, of Baker Street, London, are accused of the same two offences.

The first is that they failed in their duty not to expose guests to risks in that they permitted them to use a swimming pool without having sufficient regard to risk assessments carried out by Hygcam Ltd and 4SIGHT Risk Management Ltd.

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The second is that they contravened a health and safety regulation in that they failed to make a sufficient and suitable assessment of the health and safety risks.

A preliminary hearing of the case has been scheduled for April 27 at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The prosecution has been brought by Uttlesford District Council. Veladail Hotels and Thenhotels LLP are yet to enter pleas to the charges.

The inquest at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court heard the pool, in use since 1987, was of a ‘hopper’ design – shaped like a grain hopper – with the deepest 2.1m section in the centre. It had four steeply sloped sides, with the edges not marked.

A safety expert said a swimmer would not be able to get any firm footing on the slopes. The expert said that gradients should not exceed 1:15 but the Down Hall pool had slopes of between 1:2 and 1:3.5.

The inquest also heard that the pool was not constantly supervised by a lifeguard and the cctv system – which was not working at the time – was for reference only and not for live monitoring.