Hemel Hempstead man ‘fell to his death while cleaning his mould-ridden top-floor council flat’

Pelham Court, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead.
Pelham Court, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead.

A 52-year-old man fell to his death while cleaning his mould-ridden top-floor council flat, an inquest heard today.

David Vibert was found by paramedics on a raised flowerbed at the bottom of nine-storey Pelham Court in Leverstock Green on October 27 last year.

Herts Coroners Court heard today that David had asked neighbour John Dick for some help redecorating his flat at 7am, telling John that he had to do some repairs to a window.

Just before 8.30am, a woman in one of the flats saw David’s legs dangling and phoned 999, coroner Edward Thomas reported.

Another witness – Marie Gibson – was driving into work at the time and saw his legs swinging as he hung on to the window ledge, the inquest heard.

David landed on his feet and spoke to paramedics when they arrived, but what he said was ‘incomprehensible’, the inquest heard. He had no injuries to his head or face and initially responded to treatment, but then went into cardiac arrest and later died from hypovolaemic shock and multiple traumatic injuries.

The inquest heard David had started redecorating his flat three days earlier, and did some of the work by himself and some with dad James.

James said: “It was my initial suggestion, because he had no money and I was willing to help him from the money pot – and with the work as well.”

James was at the inquest with David’s sister Frances Grant and her husband.

Addressing James, Mr Thomas said: “He needed to decorate his flat and you helped as well.

“In fact, there had been mould. The council had done weather-proofing outside, but it was still there.

“He had to get rid of quite a lot of his bedding and curtains because of the mould.

“He was saying it was the council’s fault. A lot of reports about him with benefits and so on show he had to battle. He had to redecorate his whole flat.”

James told the inquest that David had repainted the walls, but the paint would not stay dry as water was coming in from outside.

It was reported that David had taken the safety latches off his windows and left them wide open.

James said: “We did the whole bedroom together. We washed everything with bleach to get the fungus off. The windows were open to get rid of the smell.”

The inquest heard that David, who was unemployed after being made redundant, had been taking anti-depressants for more than 10 years.

But Fiona Osuagwu, who was David’s GP at Bennetts End Surgery, said he was not suicidal and had no history of self-harm.

She said: “He came across as a very intelligent man. On first consultations, he came across as sometimes frustrated and if you didn’t know him, you could interpret that as aggression.

“But when you got to know him, he was more frustrated about the way things were going. He was able and ready to do a job, but not getting anywhere.”

She said he spoke to her about finding a good care home with an ‘airy’ room for his mother, who he used to see quite often. He did not mention his flat to her, the inquest heard.

Mr Thomas said David, who was unmarried, was able to deal with issues for other people, and did not just dwell on his own problems.

Mr Thomas said: “When a volunteer was needed, he was the one who always put his hand up.”

David’s dad James said: “There was frustration and annoyance that people were not helping him and should have been. He saw things in black and white, pretty much.

“When the work demanded time served, he would work until three or four o’clock in the morning, and always did it to the best of his ability, and his ability was really good.”

The inquest heard that it was a very windy and cold day when David died, and that he may have slipped on an icy window ledge while fitting a curtain rail. A slipper was found close to his body.

Verdict: accidental death.

UPDATE:

Dacorum Borough Council, which owns the flat, was not at David’s inquest.

Spokesman Luisa Clarke said: “We were not informed about it and we were not asked to attend. It is a very odd situation to be in, because we have been asking about it, but nobody had heard anything.”