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No prosecutions against Tower Hamlets Council for death of Alexia Walenkaki, 5, in Mile End playpark, CPS tells mother

PUBLISHED: 16:22 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:30 06 March 2018

Alexia Walenkai, aged 5 when she died. Picture source: Walenkai family

Alexia Walenkai, aged 5 when she died. Picture source: Walenkai family

Walenkai family

No criminal charges are likely over a five-year-old girl killed when a swing frame collapsed in a children’s playground—despite Tower Hamlets Council “breaching its duty of care”, the mother has been told this week.

The playpark at Mile End the day after Alexia's accident in July, 2015. Picture: Mike BrookeThe playpark at Mile End the day after Alexia's accident in July, 2015. Picture: Mike Brooke

Alexia Walenkaki was using a rope swing in Mile End playpark when the supporting log crushed her—in front of her horrified mother.

But any corporate manslaughter charges can only be brought if breaches in safety resulted from failures among senior management, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The fault was due to junior employees and the contractor who designed and fitted the equipment, Alexia’s mother Vida Kwotuah, 45, has been told in a letter from the CPS.

Family snapshot of Alexia on a rope swing. Picture source: Walenkai familyFamily snapshot of Alexia on a rope swing. Picture source: Walenkai family

Alexia suffered cardiac arrest when the rotting wooden beam supporting in the rope swing came crashing down and struck her head. She died an hour later at the Royal London Hospital on July 17, 2015—the day before her sixth birthday.

The accident in the Rhodewell Road playpark happened less than half-a-mile from the family’s Limehouse home in Carr Street.

The CPS said in January that the council would not be prosecuted, but Alexia’s mother appealed and received an explanation in a letter explaining why.

Mile End playpark where the rope swing collapsed. Picture: Mike BrookeMile End playpark where the rope swing collapsed. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Nothing will ever replace what I have lost,” she said. “But it’s hard to keep fighting for what is right for so long and not getting anywhere.

“I just feel it’s not fair—all these wrongs have happened, yet nobody’s prosecuted.”

The CPS findings revealed a lack of annual inspections of the play equipment. The e wood from a poplar or willow tree was also unsuitable with a lifespan of three years. The log was fitted in 2011, four years before the accident.

A neighbour lays floral tribute to little Alexia at Mile End playpark in July, 2015. Picture: Mike BrookeA neighbour lays floral tribute to little Alexia at Mile End playpark in July, 2015. Picture: Mike Brooke

The log was from trees “known to decay relatively quickly and not suitable in a children’s playground”, according to the CPS letter. The worker who designed it “thought he was using oak”, while annual safety inspection had not been carried out since 2013.

Gross negligence manslaughter charges could not be brought because no individual could have foreseen an “obvious and serious risk of death”, the mother was told.

Tower Hamlets Council said in a statement to the East London Advertiser today: “The CPS is also yet to share its report with us. We cannot comment on the details of the case while Coroner’s proceedings are ongoing.”

A coroner’s inquiry started in 2016 is not expected to reach its conclusions on culpability until May. The Health and Safety Executive is also running an investigation.

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