Oven manufacturer Beko failed to tell trading standards about multiple deaths linked to its cookers, inquest into five carbon-monoxide fatalities hears
- Five people have died after accidentally turning on Beko grill instead of the oven
- John, Audrey and Maureen Cook were found dead inside a static caravan in 2013
- Friends Richard Smith and Kevin Branton died in Saltash in November 2010
- Up to 62,500 ‘potentially dangerous cookers’ were sold between 2003 and 2008
- Expert who tested cooker in 2008 said it was ‘obvious’ it ‘wasn’t a safe product’
Oven manufacturer Beko failed to tell trading standards about multiple deaths linked to its cookers, an inquest into five five carbon-monoxide fatalities has heard.
Friends Richard Smith, 30, and Kevin Branton, 34, died in Saltash in November 2010, before husband and wife John, 90, and Audrey Cook, 86, died with their 47-year-old daughter Maureen in a static caravan in Camborne in February 2013.
Each death is thought to have happened after they accidentally switched the grill on instead of the oven, which, due to a design fault with a rubber seal around the grill door, caused fatal levels of carbon monoxide to build up.
An inquest into all five deaths at Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard trading standards were only initially told of one death linked to a cooker made by Beko’s Turkish parent company Arcelik, prior to the five deaths currently being heard.
Beko is thought to have sold up to 62,500 of the ‘potentially dangerous cookers,’ between 2003 and 2008.
Kevin Branton, 32, and Richard Smith, 30, from Saltash, Cornwall, died on November 13, 2010, passing away after inhaling too much of the deadly gas which was released by the cooker
The inquest has previously heard that 18 deaths in the UK and Ireland had been linked to gas cookers.
The first reported fatality was that of Alexis Landry, who died in Co Cork in November 2008, after using a GlenDimplex cooker manufactured by Arcelik.
Graham McKay, from the British Standards Institution, said he was involved in testing the cookers after the Cork death in late 2008.
He said it was ‘obvious to me within minutes’ of testing it with the grill door closed that it ‘wasn’t a safe product’.
He said: ‘I have never seen one as dangerous as these products’.
Two weeks after Mr Landry died, pensioners Boris and Vilma Green were found dead at their home in Doncaster.
The Beko oven which caused the death of Richard Smith and Kevin Branton in Cornwall in 2010. Today’s inquest at Cornwall Coroner’s Court heard Beko did not notify trading standards of all deaths related to ovens, while one expert said it was ‘obvious,’ that it ‘wasn’t a safe product’
The court heard that Hertfordshire County Council was the point of contact with Beko for trading standards matters as the company’s headquarters was in the county.
Andrew Butler, head of regulatory services, said they were informed on January 13 2009 of Mr Landry’s death.
‘At the time, it was our understanding there had only been one incident involving these types of appliances,’ he said.
Mr Butler said Beko planned remedial work removing part of the rubber seal from around the grill door for newly manufactured models and for a reworking of existing stock.
‘Over the next few weeks, we became aware this was not a one-off incident and there had been other fatalities in other parts of the country,’ he said.
‘Within two or three weeks, we changed our view and decided that further action was required and they now needed to reach out to consumers who had already purchased the product and that advice changed at the beginning of February and followed up at a meeting with Beko on February 10 2009.’
Mr Butler told the inquest colleagues at that meeting with Beko put ‘quite considerable pressure’ on the company to do more.
This included the safe modification of existing stock, contacting retail outlets selling the cookers, publishing a consumer safety notice, and contacting customers who had previously bought one.
Asked why there was not a recall of the cookers in early 2009, Mr Butler replied: ‘It was our view at that time and is still our view to this day that a modification of the product in situ is far better than simply scrapping very large numbers of product.’
Mr Butler said by September 2014, 56 per cent of the Beko cookers had been modified.
Alfred Cook, 90, who was also known to friends as John, and his 86-year-old wife Audrey were two of the people killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the faulty cooker in Camborne
The inquest heard that on December 1, two gas engineers contacted Beko making inquiries on behalf of a coroner into the deaths in Doncaster.
Rob Harland, representing the families of Mr Smith, Mr Branton and the Cooks, suggested the picture painted by Beko to trading standards in January 2009 was ‘entirely deficient’.
Mr Butler replied: ‘Certainly I would have liked Beko to have told us about the information they held in January sooner than they did because clearly there were meetings back in November.
‘There was the further information received on December 1… certainly I would have expected that information to have been shared at the earliest opportunity with trading standards.
‘If we had been notified of the Cork fatality in November, I don’t think it would have changed our position at that time.
‘If we had been aware this was not a one-off, which is the information Beko appeared to hold on December 1 suggests, that is the point I think our position would have changed; the position did in fact change at the end of January and beginning of February.’
Andrew Mullen, from Beko, explained why they did not pass on the information learnt in the December 1 phone calls.
‘The truth is we were just not contacted again and quite often when we are asked for information and hear no more, the reason we hear no more is because another cause or a reason is found,’ he said.
‘It is an issue of huge regret we didn’t follow up but that was our honest belief that they had found another cause and our input wasn’t required.
‘I think in respect of the phone call from the engineer about the Doncaster incident, perhaps we should have passed that on and I think at the time if they were misplaced, they were genuinely held reasons.’
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