Keane Wallis-Bennett FAI: No problems with wall says janitor
Andrew Gray was giving evidence today at the fourth day of the Fatal Accident Inquiry at Edinburgh Sheriff Court into the tragic death of Keane Wallis-Bennett.
Keane died on April 1, 2014, when a two-metre high free-standing “modesty” concrete wall, collapsed in the girls’ changing room of Liberton High School’s old PE Department.
“If there was movement in the wall or it was wobbly, the first thing would be to go and check it ourselves,” said Mr Gray, 55.
“If there was a problem, we would’ve pulled it over ourselves and then locked the changing rooms.”
Mr Gray said everyone at the school knew to report any safety issues to one of the three janitors - with no such reports made about the wall.
Appointed head janitor in December 2013 and still in post, Mr Gray was not on duty when the wall collapsed but described chaotic scenes as the tragedy unfolded.
“I immediately went up to the school and everybody was running around like headless chickens.
“I heard a wall had fallen but didn’t realise it was our wall in the school - I thought it was the cemetery wall,” said Mr Gray, referring to Mount Vernon Cemetery that backs onto the school.
The inquiry also heard from My Gray’s predecessor, Walter Moffat Thomson, head janitor from 1997 to retirement in 2012.
He told the hearing “you have to air on the side of safety” and any problem with the wall would have been reported.
Under cross-examination by city council QC Peter Gray, Mr Thomson added: “When I retired there were no issues with the three partition walls - the walls were safe.”
Mr Thomson told the inquiry he was eating breakfast at his nearby home when he first became aware of the tragedy in April 2014.
“I saw ambulances and fire engines going up the school drive. I had no idea what might have happened,” he recalled.
“I saw them all going towards the PE block and thought someone had fallen and broken their leg - that wasn’t too unusual.”
Mr Thomson said he was “very surprised” when he later discovered the girls’ modesty wall had collapsed.
“I thought if anything was to go it would have been the boys’ wall, because it had been flooded out many times,” he added.
Asked if everyone knew to tell a janitor if there was something wrong, Mr Thomson replied: “Yes. The first point of call was the janitor.”
The Inquiry had heard previously that there had been water had leaked into the building after copper was stolen from the roof.
Cleaner Angela Young, who has two children at the school, told the court that the girls’ changing room required less work than the boys’.
The latter had muddy footprints from boys “whacking their football boots on the walls to get the mud off them” while the girls’ only had graffiti to clean, she said.
Mrs Young told Fiscal Depute, Gary Aitken, that she had never noticed anything wrong with the wall and no-one had reported anything to her.
Asked what she would have done if she had noticed any problem with the wall or anyone had told her there was a problem, she said she would have reported it to janitors.
Mr Aitken asked her: “You were on duty in April on the day of the tragic accident and you cleaned the room before school started, was there anything untoward at that time?” “No” she replied.
The Inquiry has been adjourned until tomorrow.