Great Orme cliff death scout warned of 'dodgy' edge

Ben Leonard Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Ben Leonard, 16, died on 26 August 2018

Friends of a 16-year-old scout who fell to his death at a beauty spot warned him the cliff edge looked "dodgy", an inquest has heard.

Ben Leonard of Stockport, Greater Manchester, died at the Great Orme in Llandudno, Conwy, on 26 August 2018.

At Ruthin Coroner's Court, summaries of interviews with Ben's friends Alex Jamieson, 15, and Christopher Gilbert, 16, were read.

Ben died after falling from a 200ft (60m) cliff, the inquest heard.

The boys said they had separated from the rest of the group while walking up the Orme and their scout leaders had seen them go on a different path.

When they reached the top, Alex and Christopher said Ben went towards the edge of the cliff and tried to find a route down the hill.

In his interview, read out by assistant coroner for north Wales David Pojur, Christopher said: "I called him a name for going down this other path because I thought it looked a little bit ridiculous and he teased me for not doing it."

Alex said: "I did not want to go closer to the edge because I was a bit scared of falling off.

"Ben was trying to convince us to come down and Chris said 'it is a bit dodgy'."

'Breathing strangely'

The inquest jury heard Christopher saw Ben slip - his two friends then ran down the Orme and saw him lying on the road.

Christopher said a group of people were gathered round Ben who was "lying on the road breathing strangely".

Scout leader Sean Glaister said he had joined assistant leader Gareth Williams partway up the Great Orme after leaving the group to move his car.

He believed Ben and the other two boys were with the other assistant scout leader, Mary Carr.

Image caption Ben was walking on the Great Orme when he fell to his death

When they reached the top of the Orme they spoke to Ms Carr over the phone and she said the three boys were not with her.

But Mr Glaister told the court he was not immediately concerned for Ben, who had completed his bronze Duke of Edinburgh's award, and his friends.

He said: "I wouldn't expect him to take the risk that he did.

"I would have thought he would have stayed with the other two lads no matter what, they were inseparable."

'Stubborn nature'

Mr Glaister said when he returned to the bottom of the Orme he received a phone call from Christopher.

"His actual words were 'Ben's fallen off a cliff'," he said.

There was no written risk assessment for the trip to the Great Orme, which took place after a planned trip to Snowdon was cancelled due to bad weather.

He said: "If we had have had time somebody would have come up with a formal plan."

Members of Ben's family walked out of the hearing during the evidence of The Scout Association national safety manager Jess Kelly when she suggested Ben had a "stubborn nature".

Miss Kelly was asked if enough had been done to identify and reduce the risk to Ben and the friends with him on that day.

"I don't believe the leaders were knowledgeable of the hazards they needed to be to reduce the risks," she said.

When the court resumed after a short break, she said there was evidence Ben had a "stubborn nature", although she later accepted he was a normal teenager and was not suggesting he "was a bad lad."

Nick McCall, the solicitor for the family, asked: "Are you saying Ben's nature was anything untoward?"

Miss Kelly said: "It may not be out of the ordinary for teenagers, but may have been something taken into consideration when making a risk assessment."

She agreed some of the association's policies had not been followed in the planning for the trip.

The inquest continues.

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