Inquest into tragic Alexia Walenkaki at Mile End Park delayed a year by police probe

Alexia Walenkaki

Alexia Walenkaki - Credit: Archant

The grieving family of a five-year-old girl who died while playing in a children’s playpark in London’s East End have been told they may have to wait until next year for her inquest to be held.

Alexia Walenkaki

Alexia Walenkaki - Credit: Archant

Little Alexia Walenkaki’s family had already turned up at St Pancras Coroner’s court this-morning for the start of a three-day hearing when the shock announcement was made putting the case on hold until 2017 for further police inquiries.

The chief coroner for St Pancras and Poplar, Mary Hassell, said it was wrong to take so long for an inquest to start, but she had no alternative.

She had been forced to adjourn the inquest into Alexia’s death at Mile End Park last summer after the police and Crown Prosecution Service said that further investigations had to be made.

The corner described the call for an adjournment on the morning the inquest was to begin while the little girl’s family sat in court along with a raft of witnesses as “very, very undesirable”.

Alexia Walenkaki

Alexia Walenkaki - Credit: Archant

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She added: “I am very unhappy that this should be adjourned for such a long date and am entirely conscious that Alexia died in 2015. It seems for an inquest to take over a year to be heard is wrong, but I have no alternative.

“It is a poor state of affairs. I do not know how this could have arisen.”

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The situation in which the family, witnesses and a jury were on standby “should have been avoided” as previous preliminary hearings had been held to sort out the details.

New information from the Health & Safety Executive had “generated further inquiries”, according to Det Insp Craig Bradley of the Met Police.

Alexia was playing on a rope swing with three friends in the playpark in Locksley Street, off Burdett Road, on July 17 when a tree trunk supporting it fell and struck her head. The tree trunk had decayed, it was found.

Tower Hamlets Council which runs the playpark could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter or gross negligence.

The Met Police are compiling a report for the Crown Prosecution Service, an earlier pre-inquest review has been told.

The coroner warned that jury inquests might not take place until 2017.

The date set is January 16 while police enquiries continue, according to the family’s solicitors, Hodge, Jones & Allen.

A statement from the law firm said: “The circumstances surrounding Alexia’s death appear to involve a piece of wood, which formed part of a piece of playground equipment, falling and striking Alexia on the head.”

The inquest is listed for seven days at St Pancras Coroner’s Court.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said after today’s stalled hearing: “The coroner has decided to adjourn the inquest to be able to consider findings of the joint investigation by the police and the Health & Safety Executive, when ready.”

Alexia died at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel at 6.43pm on July 17, less than two hours after the accident.

The congregation St Dunstan’s Church in Stepney where the family were regular worshippers said prayers for her two days later. A special assembly was also held the following day at Alexia’s school.

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