Northern Ireland

George Brown: Judge advises gas safety devices for homes

Neil McFerran (l) and Aaron Davidson (r) Image copyright Other
Image caption Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson died from carbon monoxide poisoning

Homeowners should consider installing gas safety devices to prevent "an unmitigated tragedy", a judge has said.

The judge was speaking ahead of the sentencing of George Brown, 52, from Ballygawley Road, Aghadowey, for the manslaughter of teenagers Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson in 2010.

The pair died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a holiday home in Castlerock, County Londonderry.

Mr Brown is set to be sentenced on Thursday.

In January, the former gas-fitter pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the teenagers and a string of other charges including health and safety breaches.

Peace of mind

The charges related not just to the holiday home in Castlerock where Neil and Aaron died, but also other private properties as well as a restaurant and caravan park in Coleraine.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The 18-year-old friends, from Newtownabbey, County Antrim, died on 3 August, 2010.

An investigation had found that the gas leak had been caused by a defective flue in a boiler.

Speaking at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday, the judge said homeowners might "get peace of mind" by installing additional safety devices against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption George Brown is set to be sentenced on Thursday

The comments came after the court heard from David Taylor, an expert in the field of gas appliances and the training of appliance fitters.

Not cost effective

Mr Taylor said that while such devices were mainly for "commercial application", they were available for domestic consumers as well.

He added that people would require both an alarm and a device to shut the boiler off, at a cost of around £270 plus installation.

The judge said: "A machine which will detect carbon monoxide poisoning and is able to close down the system seems to be a very good idea."

However, prosecution experts said they did not think the safety measures were cost effective as the devices were only guaranteed for up to two years.


The judge added: "For peace of mind you might think it worthwhile. This case, at the end of the day, is about the way in which the installation was carried out."

The judge is set to sentence Mr Brown on Thursday.

His barrister has already told the court that he is remorseful over the deaths and they were "a complete travesty".

The defence QC added that while Mr Brown was not the person responsible for carrying out the gas boiler installation, his guilty plea was accepted "on the basis he should not have sent out someone who was an unqualified operative to do this work".

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