for immediate use -16 December 2010( Back to news releases)
Victim impact statement from Dorothy and Douglas Wright
Victim Impact Statement from Dorothy and Douglas Wright presented to the court in the sentencing hearing for Jeyes Ltd, Deeside Metals and Mr. Roberts for offences that killed their son Mark Wright, at Caernarfon Crown Court on 13th December 2010.
I’ve been given HSE's Victim Personal Statement (VPS) leaflet and the VPS scheme has been explained to me. What follows is what I wish to say in connection with the explosion and fire that took place at Deeside Metal Co Ltd on 12th April 2005 that led to my son Mark Wright's death on 13th April 2005. I understand what I say may be used in various ways and may be disclosed to the defence, if this investigation leads to a prosecution.
I say this on behalf of myself, my husband Douglas, my family, the extended family and everyone who loved and miss Mark but find it too difficult to speak now.
My son, Mark was a loyal and loving partner and husband for 19 years when he was killed, at the age of 37, by the explosion and fireball that occurred on 12th April 2005 at Deeside Metal Co Ltd Saltney.
He doted on his 2 children, a son who was 15, who was his best pal, and a daughter of 2 who always ran to him for safety, back in 2005 when Mark failed to return from work.
Mark was a husband, father, son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew and friend and every one of the people concerned have been affected by his death and by witnessing the struggle of the last years that have changed all our lives irrevocably and traumatically.
In the months before his death, Mark became increasingly concerned for his safety at work, having sustained numerous burns and injuries and suffered breathing problems resulting in 8 weeks of incapacity from work, he believed this was caused by inhaling of toxic fumes at Deeside Metal.
At that time, he actually told us and friends that he was sure someone would be killed one day as serious safety risks were being taken and he was looking for another job.
Only 1 week before he was killed he became acutely concerned when a car passed to him for crushing burst into flames, resulting in Mark having to jump clear and search for fire extinguishers to put out the blaze. He hoped, as the managing director was present that it would lead to tighter safety procedures. He felt he could have been killed on that day.
I spoke to him on 11th April when he phoned in great spirits, he had found another job and was so pleased and incredibly relieved, he would hand in his notice that week. He never did that.
I never spoke to my son again. The death he so accurately predicted was his own.
We received a phone call to come to Chester as Mark had been involved in an explosion and fire at Deeside Metal and there was no hope for his survival. We left our home immediately and drove in silence for 5 hours going straight to the hospital arriving after midnight and taken straight to Mark's bedside. The shock of seeing my son will never leave me. The doctor had kept him on life support until we could get there to say goodbye, the last act of kindness that has been shown to us over these last 5 years.
I sat with my husband, Mark's wife and his son on 12 th at Mark's bedside, seeing my son burned beyond recognition, until the life support system was switched off. This was a sight that no child should ever have to witness, indeed no wife or parent should ever have to witness.
Mark was declared dead and as we left the room, the first words that were said to us were from a woman I had never met saying cheerily 'Well I can go home now folks' This was the police family liaison officer whose inhumanity contributed greatly to the family's pain until we requested that she be removed. She had told us , just a couple of days after Mark was killed, that 4, 000 gas filled aerosols had been transported from Jeyes to Deeside Metal and Mark had been instructed to crush them on a baling machine, releasing the flammable gas which ignited causing an explosion and fire ball engulfing Mark. Mark was the only one in the building and so only one fatality. The explosion had been captured on CCTV until the flames stopped the camera and that it was horrific.
I spent many months of sleepless nights and nightmares when I did sleep following this with the vision of my son engulfed in flames, the most terrifying and painful of deaths imaginable. I kept asking, why was this hazardous waste allowed to leave Jeyes premises? Why was Mark told to crush aerosols?
While in that period of utter timelessness my daughter in law received Mark's P60 and a few days wages from the employer, nothing else, no message of concern or enquiry about the welfare of his now widow or children. So I had to put my grief to one side and track round the various government agencies, carrying my son's temporary death certificate, trying to sort out some kind of financial benefit for Mark's widow and children as she had no money to pay her bills or buy food. I never dreamt that this would just be the start of the long trek and I would never be given the 'luxury' of simple grief
In the shock filled days that followed while we waited for Mark's return to us, I needed to visit the spot where Mark ceased to be, to place flowers there, we had nowhere else to place them and that need was overwhelming. However the employer would not allow me on the premises, so I returned later to pin some flowers on the railing at the industrial estate .I continued to pin flowers and, at times, cards on that railing at significant times, it helped the family cope with our grief.
A few days before that first terrible Christmas I asked my 2 year old grand daughter what she wanted from Father Christmas, she replied 'A big long ladder so that daddy can climb down from the sky and be here'. After many tears and in my pain, I wrote to the director telling him of the children's agony. This resulted in the first of 3 visits by 2 uniformed policemen, the first to my daughter in law's door just a couple of days before Christmas as she coped with 2 traumatized children, saying that, at the employer's insistence, they had to say that if I pinned any more flowers or cards on the railing at the industrial estate, the employer would ensure that I was charged with criminal harassment
I contacted the police, then wrote another letter to the employer, at the suggestion of the police, to say that the pinning of flowers was intended to help the family in their grieving and in no way was intended as harassment of the employer and hoped they would understand that. This resulted in the last of the 3 visits, to my home in Scotland following our return there. I showed the 2 policemen the full record I had kept of what I had sent to employer and photographs I had taken of the flowers. The policemen were totally shocked, they had not been told any of the circumstances, just that I should be told the employer would have me charged with harassment. He said he could imagine what I thought of the police now and apologized.
I felt the police were being used as the instrument of harassment of a devastated grieving mother and grand mother, who had never had as much as a parking ticket in her life. My neighbours were concerned and asked why the police had called so I told them, they too were astounded and disgusted. This is how the bereaved relatives have been treated, not one word of regret or concern.
In fact for the last 5 years, Mark's family has been continually made to feel that we are the real criminals and not those who caused my son's death, that somehow our son, in allowing him to be killed, had caused huge inconvenience and problems for his employer. From 2 senior individuals, who should have been totally impartial, we were treated with utmost antagonism and prejudice.
At the time of his father's death, my grand son was just starting out on his GCSE year, intent on getting the required GCSEs to carry on to A levels with an eye to an engineering career.
Instead, for some weeks, he sat in his father's car, playing his father's CDs, wearing his father's clothes, withdrawn from the world. In the midst of our own shock and grief we felt helpless and no official help was offered, not by the school or any other body. My grandson was mentally unable to cope with school.
It was only toward the end of that year, thanks to a district nurse, that help was given in the form of a home tutor. It was too late, however, and although he did remarkably well all things considered, he had missed too much schooling and the GCSEs he needed for his once promising career did not happen.
In an attempt to perhaps get an apprenticeship, he undertook a college course in plumbing. On his second day he was told by his tutor to go to the experts for advice on buying his protective clothing, none other than Grahams Machinery, owned by same directors as Deeside Metal, being the parent company, selling safety gear, protective clothing and industrial gases such as butane and propane. On their website, they state that they have been winning safety awards since 1995 and will give employers advice on all their products, no doubt the required safety clothing that was denied to my son when operating the baler.
Mark's son became so upset he had to be removed from the class. In spite of being awarded the title of Student of the Year, no apprenticeship materialized. He now has to face a lifetime of work without those vital bits of paper that are a passport to a decent income for him and his family and my fear for his future adds to my pain. During the Civil action for compensation for Mark's widow and children, Deeside Metal contended that, as Mark's son was 15 when his father was killed, the effect on him would be only minimal and so he only received £10000. In truth, the effect on a boy of that age of seeing his father die and then how lightly that death is treated by the justice system is truly monumental.
Mark's daughter was only two so couldn't fully comprehend where her dad had gone. For years she went to bed cuddling Mark's t shirt, still asks questions about why her dad was killed and although she is bright and doing well at school, she has to grow up without the love of her biological father, who worshipped her.
Who can tell what the full long term effects will be on both Mark's children but we do know that children are happier if brought up in a home with both parents and that children need to know who their parents were so I have kept everything I can of Mark's life and all the evidence, the hundreds of letters written and responses received concerning her father's death and our struggle for justice. She will want to know one day how much we cared and how hard we tried.
Like many families in this situation, being law abiding citizens, we believed in and expected fairness, consideration, respect, impartiality, no unnecessary delay, and assistance from those we trusted with our family's safety and our lives in our time of most need and powerlessness, agencies such as the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and Coroners.
I have written hundreds of letters, some of the answers to which were horrific in their cruelty and ignorance of what is actually happening in this country. It has been insinuated that we, as a family, should not have challenged the original decision of a Crown Prosecutor and that somehow we brought some kind of pressure on the Director of Public prosecutions. If that original decision was in error or new evidence came to light we have every right to challenge it and indeed we were proved right to have done so. These assertions about us were made in court and we had no opportunity for redress, nor the means to counter them,
Why is it only the accused that has Human Rights and has them protected? We have been shocked to be told that our son was not covered by Article 2 of the Human Rights act—the right to life nor are we apparently covered by Article 6- the right to justice. It is only when innocent victims are powerless and in great need we discover this. There is no level playing field between the accused and the victims
For a family to suffer this for 5 long years is appalling and inhuman. My husband and I have grown prematurely old during these years of trying to hold on to some scrap of belief in justice and fairness We have both suffered sleep problems and I have undergone hypnotherapy to erase the recurring nightmare of Mark consumed by flames. My husband finds his loss and our subsequent inhuman treatment, which has left the wound too deep to heal, too difficult to talk about at all. My daughter just can't think of her only sibling dead, she does not speak of Mark at all, that is the way she copes with his loss. Her daughter will never know her loving uncle. My mother, Mark's grand mother, in the last months of her life, felt so guilty and upset that at 91, she was still living and Mark was gone. She kept saying, 'It should have been me instead'. To my sister, Mark's aunt, he was like a son, the only nephew she had and her son's only cousin. Both have been badly affected not only by his loss but by witnessing our family's long unfair treatment.
This journey has been shared by individuals who have helped enormously in giving of their time, support above and beyond the call of duty, including a fantastic solicitor, a fair and thorough second Coroner, a concerned barrister who gave free advice, my MP, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, the Deputy Public Prosecutor’s (DPP) office, FACK, The Compassionate Friends (TCF) and Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA no longer in existence)
I am truly thankful for all their help and hope that I can return that by using our horrendous experience to speak out for change and to help those families faced with starting down this same terrible road. In this way I will feel that at least my son's death was not totally pointless. The result of this court action will change nothing for us, will bring no closure or easing of our pain or burden. I have to live now without my son, with my anger, unable to get the release that forgiving brings as that only comes after the feeling that justice has been done and some remorse has been shown.
This is too little, much too late to change anything. All that can be said is that the system is finished with us and can inflict no further agony on my family. As was recently said of those who are killed at work and sums up my feelings entirely 'If blood be the price of all your wealth then Great God we have paid that price in full'. We now live in another country, unable to live in a country that would betray and inflict such pain on innocent families particularly on the children. Perhaps one day, if attitudes change and company directors feel that their workers' lives are worth protecting, or the justice system regards the taking of those lives as a serious crime, we may be able to return.
Dorothy and Douglas Wright