Glasgow & West Scotland

Ciaran Williamson killed 'instantly' by falling headstone

Ciaran James Williamson Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Ciaran Williamson died in May 2015

The death of an eight-year-old boy killed by a gravestone was "instantaneous and painless", a fatal accident inquiry has been told.

Ciaran Williamson suffered two skull fractures and his brain stem separated when he was hit by the headstone in a cemetery in Glasgow.

The inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that the stone also caused injuries to his heart and liver.

Ciaran's parents wept as the details of his death were read to the court.

The incident happened in Craigton Cemetery in Cardonald on 26 May 2015.

Details of Ciaran's injuries emerged in a joint minute of agreement of pathology evidence which was read to the court by Dorothy Bain QC.

Blunt force trauma

She said: "The pediment fell striking Ciaran on the top of his head causing him to fall backwards, as a result he sustained several head injuries."

It was heard that the pediment "fell further and progressed down Ciaran's face causing him to sustain several abrasions".

The document also said "the pediment then landed on Ciaran's chest, shoulder and upper abdomen causing him to sustain the blunt force trauma injuries he suffered to his aorta and liver".

Miss Bain told the court: "At the point Ciaran was struck by the pediment his death would have been instantaneous and painless for him."

The inquiry aims to establish if there were any reasonable precautions that could have prevented the tragedy.

It will also consider if there were any defects in the system of work that caused or contributed to Ciaran's death.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Stonemason Peter Hayman said he would have fenced the gravestone off because it was unstable

Earlier expert stonemason Peter Hayman told the court that "very little force" would have been enough to topple the headstone.

He said a nearby tree's roots forced the memorial to lean forward but concluded "if left without any remedial action it would have eventually failed at some point".

He said the angle of lean on the stone was between eight and eight and a half degrees.

Dorothy Bain QC - representing Ciaran's mother Stephanie Griffin - asked Mr Hayman if he had visited before the incident, what risk he thought the stone would present.

The witness said that if it was leaning at the angle it was recorded at it "would be a definite hazard and danger".

He told the hearing that he would still assess the particular stone as a potential danger if the angle of lean was about six degrees.

Miss Bain asked what he meant by "very little force" and he said: "Perhaps even a strong gust of wind."

Fenced off

He added: "Ground heave, frost and thaw actions."

She asked: "If you had been asked to inspect the Ross memorial before the failure, would you have passed it as safe?" Mr Hayman said "No."

Miss Bain asked: "Would would you have done?" He replied: "I would have immediately fenced it off."

Mr Hayman said he was disappointed at the condition of some of the headstones at Craigton Cemetery.

It was heard that he had contacted the council to suggest an inspection and maintenance programme.

Under cross-examination by Mark Stewart QC, representing Glasgow City Council, Mr Hayman was asked whether he meant that the headstone was "so perilously balanced a gust of wind would knock it over?" He replied that he did not.

The inquiry before sheriff Linda Ruxton continues.

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