Keane Wallis-Bennett FAI: Wall ‘may’ have been pushed before fall

Keane Wallis-Bennett died after a freestanding modesty wall collapsed.

Keane Wallis-Bennett died after a freestanding modesty wall collapsed.

AN inquiry into the death of a schoolgirl who was crushed by a falling wall has heard it could have been pushed over moments before it fell.

Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, died in April 2014 after a freestanding “modesty” wall collapsed in the girls’ changing room of Liberton High School’s old PE block.

Mark Hatfield, a specialist inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, was yesterday asked his opinion on fresh evidence provided by one of Keane’s former classmates.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, described how she and a friend had been leaning against the wall with their backs moments before it fell.

She described having her feet off the floor and resting on the opposite shower wall for a couple of seconds before the modesty wall collapsed on top of Keane.

When questioned by advocate Gavin Anderson, who is representing Keane’s parents, the girl said she could not remember if she was leaning at the same time as her friend or separately.

The girl was called to give evidence via video link in an effort to assist Mr Hatfield in determining what caused the 1.9 tonne brick wall to fall when it did.

In light of the new evidence, Mr Hatfield said he did not believe one girl leaning on the wall in such a way would have been enough to topple it if it was only partially cracked through its thickness.

However he added: “If the wall was already fully cracked then it is possible that a single girl acting as described may have caused it to fall.”

Mr Hatfield previously spoke of his belief that the modesty wall had been cracked through its full thickness for some time – possibly even years – prior to its collapse.

He added yesterday that if two girls had been leaning as described against an already fully cracked wall then this would turn the “possibility” of it falling as a result of being pushed into a “probability”.

The inquiry, which is being heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court before Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC, has now finished hearing evidence.

Parties involved are expected to make their submissions today.

Since it got under way last week, a number of witnesses have given evidence for the inquiry, including teachers, pupils, construction experts and health and safety inspectors.

Opening the proceedings, Sheriff Principal Stephen said its aim was to establish “as precisely” as possible the circumstances surrounding Keane’s tragic death.

She added: “The whole community was deeply shocked by Keane’s death – a young woman who attended school on the first of April three years ago and did not return to her family.

“There is a particular poignancy surrounding this tragic event.

“We can all reflect that school is a place where young people should be inspired by learning to understand that there is no limit to their potential and ambition.”

The inquiry continues.

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk