May 26, 2024

Gibson Court death was ‘tragic accident’, but coroner criticises safety procedures


Irene Cockerton was the only Gibson Court residents who did not reach safety during the  fire in September 2011

Irene Cockerton was the only Gibson Court resident who did not reach safety during the fire in September 2011

The death of Irene Cockerton, 87, in the fire at Gibson Court was a “tragic accident”, the coroner ruled last Friday.

Irene was the only resident who did not reach safety after fire swept through the retirement leasehold site on September 30 2011.

Her body was found by rescue workers the next day in her wardrobe where she is believed to have taken shelter. She died of asphyxiation.

Fire crews had risked their safety by returning to the building during the fire “to rescue a lot of vulnerable people who almost certainly would have perished otherwise”, said coroner Richard Travers.

He also addressed the issue of the fire safety curtains in the roof space that were damaged. In June 2010 these had been brought to the attention of Peverel, which manages the site for the freeholder, the Tchenguiz Family Trust.

The curtains were repaired in February 2011, but the damage was “not simple” and the inspection was “limited”. Mr Travers said “one will never know if adequate works had taken place”.

He criticised the “pitiful, flawed and inaccurate” annual fire risk assessment at the site. The Peverel area manager had never entered the roof space to check fire precautions.

Mr Travers said he would write to relevant agencies expressing concerns about carrying out effective fire risk assessments of the roof void at Peverel properties; the communication between the emergency control room and firefighters at the scene; the speed at which emergency calls made to Careline are transferred to the emergency control room, using a stay put policy where residents are elderly and the positioning of smoke alarms within individual flats.

Peverel commented to the local press: “The safety and wellbeing of all our customers is our utmost priority. We will give all due consideration to the coroner’s conclusion and any subsequent reports to identify if there are any areas where further improvements can be made.”

Full local press report can be read here and here


  1. SOK
    Please, now will you post my comment, that was held in abeyance, until after the inquest?

  2. m. epstein says

    Now the inquest has delivered its verdict, other issues beyond the inquest’s remit can be looked at.
    It is a matter of public record that a Careline call was delayed. What has yet to be explained is why the careline call was late?
    I believe it was on the TTAS site information given was that Careline suffered from severe staff shortages and that at certain periods staff who were not at work were “signed in” so that it appeared that sufficient staff needed to comply with contractual obligations were complied with.
    it is open to speculation if the correct number of staff were actually working the night of the Gibson Court Fire.

    • CarelineUK are no better than their subsidiary, Cirrus Communications, who were found guilty of Price Fixing.

      CarelineUK failed to respond in August 2012 when my neighbour who was over 90, was concerned that her friend was left lying on the floor in their flat, after a cock up over The Master Key, which was not available the day before, it took six minutes before Careline answered, Chris Owens later apologised for the delay?

      The cock up was not a directs CarelineUK problem, but was exasperated when CarelineUK was finally contacted and the Paramedic was given the old Access Code, which had been changed, when the House Manager was sacked.

      Chris Owens refused to believe the four residents who were on the Development, during the emergency and who eventually, 40 minutes after the emergency, gained access with out Carelines help.

      We did find, after the cock up, our neighbour was asked to put in writing, what they had witnessed. Not surprising the neighbours interpretation was different to ours, as they were only present at the beginning and the end, some 30 minutes in between, when they were not present, during the frantic attempts to get CarelineUK to provide the Access Code???

      CarelineUK concern was that, I may not have been who I said I was, yet Carline new that the phone call came from my Flat?

      If they had give me the Code ( even though it was not the right Access Code ) we could have saved 15 minutes? The Master Key Code could have been changed, within an hour of us being informed as the lock was a combination type, that allowed for changing the numbers?

      The fact the Code was wrong, is immaterial, as we had to improvise and eventually got through to the residents family who gave me the Access Code, to their individual Key Master??

      Of course Chris Owens stated that my evidence was false and the truth came from the Peverel Company, CarelineUK, can any one believe a Peverel Company?

      Who was the Contractor who undertook the repair to the Fire Curtains and why did the Technical Manager refuse to visit?

      It is obvious that Peverel Retirement, did not have the expertise to check the repair, as they had made all the Technical Managers except one B.E. redundant?

  3. Do Peverel actually understand the meaning of the word “sorry”. You would have thought that they might have said slightly more than “we will give all due consideration to the coroner’s conclusion”. I imagine this phrase does not give a lot of comfort to Irene’s relatives, or other residents living in blocks dating from the same age and built by the same builder. Has the roof space in the next door block now been checked and adequate fire protection been put in place? From photos taken at the time by members of CarlEX it was obvious that the protection measures in the roof space were non-existent.

    • Michael Epstein says

      At the time of writing this post it is clear that Peverel do not think the inquest into the death of Irene Cockerton as a result of the fire at Gibson Court is worthy of a mention on their website.
      Evern worse, again at the time of writing this post, the family is trying to sell the flat that belonged to Irene. With good reason it is proving difficult to sell. Meanwhile the ” ever caring” Peverel are i am led to believe still charging the family full service charges and of course the freeholder wants their exit fees.
      What needs to happen now is that Peverel should purchase Irene Cockerton’s flat at the full market value, pay all associated fees(including exit fees) and let her family come to terms with their tragic loss, free of Peverel.

      • Michael,

        Are you sure that Peverel are still charging the family full service charges and require the exit fee?

        Surely not?

        Which Peverel Company is sending out these letters, is it Peverel Services Ltd?

    • MLB,

      It may be that the Fire Curtains were designed to drop down once fire/heat had breached the roof space, similar to the Air Bag which will release on contact?

      If the Fire Curtains were geared up to an electric supply, they should have been checked and maintained possibly by the manufacturer or a subsidiary company and also may have had a shelf life?

      If as it shows on line that the development was built in 1994 then the design could have been from 1991 as the Building Regulations allow up to 3 years before they are out of date?

      Tests should have been undertaken over the years and possibly a Design and Build Contract where the works could begin before the design had been completed?

      I spoke to my friend from Building Control who has been a BCO for at least 15 years and they had never had a new build with Fire Curtains?

      I have checked and found it was a McCarthy & Stone Development so we know that most if not all would have been passed by the National House Building Council (NHBC) which undertook the same role as BC but were a Private Company undertaking 10 year Warranty for Structural Failure?

      I notice that the Peverel Retirement spokesperson Mark Watson, was casting aspersions on the Fire & Rescue as he stated they ” tackled the blaze from the outside?

      Typical Peverel Retirement blame others first???

      Note:- The Fire Service was awarded a commendation for the Firemen who undertook the blaze and were mentioned in despatches?

  4. MLB,development

    Why would a Development built in 1980/90 have Fire Curtains as a Fire Break on what would be at the time a New Build?

    This must have been passed by the Local Building Control Office???

    I have spoken to my friends who are in BC and Fire Curtains in New Build is something new to them??

    Was this a McCarthy & Stone Development and if so how many more rely on Fire Curtains??

    I know they were used in Refurbishing of large Mills where the height and the original design did not take into account Fire Breaks including Fire Walls?

    The Fire Curtains would have been part of a overall design where the Ceiling that were under the Roof Void were designed as part of the package and would have been part of a Fire Compartmentation of each flat below as part of an overall design?

    In other words the ceiling would be considered as the Fire Break as well as the Fire Curtains??

    Of course now as usual on reflection Peverel will look to increase their vigilance and of course the residents will be sent the bills to pay for any Upgrade/Survey?


    If the original design now proves ineffective, then the original Builder/Architect are required to have a PROFESSIONAL INDEMINITY to cover the costs of Design Failures, as do Structural Engineers?

    The Indemnity that should cover, all past design/build failure’s??

    Check it out?

    • I must agree that fire curtains in a purpose build are extraordinary.

      • AM,

        I concur with your statement?

        I believe that McCarthy & Stone Developments were Design & Build using NHBC as Approved Inspectors?

        I am checking with other friends in BC, how many other New Developments had Fire Curtains instead of Fire Walls, that should have given,
        1 Hour Fire Check for the Party Wall in the Roof Space?

        Half Hour Fire Check to the Ceiling?

        How does a fire take hold and destroy several roofs in 1hour and 20 minutes?

        It seems that the fire was ragging and no Fire Alarm sounded until a door was opened?

        Notice that Peverel made a statement saying they would not make any further statements?

        The Fire & Rescue Service Investigation has not yet reported, is this correct?

        • Michael Epstein says

          I wonder if the fire brigade charity that accepted a £3,000 donation from Peverel is now regretting it, in view of Peverel attempting to blame the conduct of the Surrey firemen for the tragedy at Gibson Court?

  5. Ernest Hartland says

    So the outcome is not as predicted, and it is yet another excuse for Peverel to inflict other Developments with Roof / Attic / Loft inspections by Cardinus at OUR COST! Note that no one has inspected my Loft / Attic as a Freehold Owner, they do not have a Right to Inspect my Attic! Just another Con by Peverel as far as I am concerned, but, when are the Authorities going to wake up to all of these Scams to part us from our funds? I won’t be holding my breathe!

    • I disagree- they should be inspecting these areas and providing safe and workable access already,not simply for inspectors and area managers as noted, but for the contractors that already service them. Like the fix, the scam is (already )in if these steps have not been taken at construction or installation, or knowingly omitted by the Risk Assessors. For that the Landlord and Agent must accept liability.

  6. Michael Epstein says

    Ernest Hartland,
    If any inspections find that fire curtains have been damaged or not fitted correctly or even not fitted at all that must be down to Peverel who had a duty to ensure work was carried out in a proper manner by the contractors to pay for any remedial action that is found to be needed.

  7. Did Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation take photos of the other roof space, that had these Fire Curtains fitted.

    The Local Building Control would have copy’s of all plans/drawing involved?

    These would be archived now but would be on the computer system as an approval?

    Was there a completion Certificate Issued???

    Many developments do not receive the Completion Certificate because the works were not completed as drawn?

    It allows in the Building Regulations that Architects/Builders can use other methods, that are not readily seen in the Regulations, but the Architect/Builder have to show that the design used, conforms to the Regulations?

  8. Further claims made against Peverel Retirement, when we paid out £,20,000 for an updated Warden Call System and the time and effort taken over 4 years to get close to the truth.

    We are 80% there now and just waiting for the last part of the JIG-Saw to fall in place, I sent this email to Janet Entwistle today;Dear Janet,

    Sorry that I have not contacted you recently, I have been busy. Regarding the latest email from Chris Owens, (CO) dated the 22/05/14, CO stated that I ask too many questions and that neither of you are prepared to continue answering pertinent questions, and will no longer correspond directly with me?

    As for you Janet, who has never answered any of my emails?

    I find this very strange and very unprofessional?

    It has to be said that CO, when answering an email, only ever partially answers questions. He has a habit of choosing which question to answer and then provides a one sided, misleading, incomplete answer? Having met with Area Manager RC and Regional Manager PW, it is no surprise that misinformation has been provided by both managers to CO, who then regurgitates the information provided.

    CO also has a habit, when answering the few questions that he chooses too, of over stating his responses, as seen below:-

    CO stated “we have already answered the vast majority reasonably and satisfactory to you in a serious of detailed responses”

    No, CO did not answer the majority, reasonably or satisfactory as he only answered, 7 out of 28 questions???

    CO also stated, “I did provide you a comprehensive factual response on 16 April”

    No CO did not provide a comprehensive factual response, he was not on ABC on the day in question and relied on second hand information from people, who work for the Peverel Group???

    We know that CO uses over stated language as above, to show Janet and others at Peverel Retirement that he is on top of everything???

    A. The questions below were asked regarding the Warden Call System Replacement, at ABC and the first reply, CO failed to answer 21 out of 28 questions asked?

    A further email in May 2014 was sent, regarding the other 21 questions, which CO still failed to provide a reply???

    B. CO failed to answer 21 of the questions that have a greater bearing on the validity of the contract, which are of greater importance to us residents, who believe we were Price Fixed, not correctly consulted regarding Option 1 or Option 2 and then purposely kept in the dark regarding, who undertook the works at ABC, and even that the works were required?

    C. As the WCS was supposedly damaged on 26/07/2007, why did it take 9 months for the new system to be replaced? The Technical Officer GR, stated it was an emergency and the usual consultation process will not be possible?
    D. GR also sent out a Notice to all residents, on the 20/02/2008, where he stated that Peverel Management Services Ltd were entering into a formal contract with Cirrus Communications to undertake the works? No mention of the work being Sub-Contracted to Glyn Jackson who was later fined for Price Fixing???

    Schedule 3 to the Service Charges (Consultation Requirements) (England) Regulations 2003/1987, states that Stage 1 must describe the works; and
    Stage 2 must inform the lessee of the amount that the works are likely to cost;

    E. As no consultation regarding Option 1 for £15,132.00 or Option 2 a further £5,500.00 had been undertaken the likely cost of £21,446.10 was given by GR with out any proper consultation, with us the residents?.