Revealed: full extent of investigation into Edinburgh's deadly 2012 Legionnaires outbreak

No criminal proceedings after disease left four dead and 92 others ill

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 6:00 am
Catherine McDonald lost her partner Bert Air
Catherine McDonald lost her partner Bert Air

THE full extent of the investigation into the deadly 2012 Legionnaires outbreak in Edinburgh can be laid bare today.

Figures obtained by the Evening News under freedom of information laws reveal a painstaking probe by safety experts.

Victims’ families have previously expressed outrage and frustration that no one will be prosecuted over the outbreak.

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“I want somebody to put their hand up and say ‘sorry, it was us, we apologise for what’s happened,” said Catherine McDonald, 61, whose partner of 12 years, Bert Air died from the disease.

Labourer Mr Air, 56, was one of four to lose their lives with 92 others falling ill in the Gorgie outbreak yet the source remains a mystery.

Figures reveal the Health and Safety Executive spent more than £21,500 on external expert evidence.

The HSE’s spent more than 5,700 hours working on the case - the vast majority looking into five firms.

These were Ashland Industries UK Limited and MacFarlan Smith Limited, North British Distillery Company Limited, Pera Services Limited and Chemtech Consultancy Limited.

Some 28 investigators - though not exclusively focused on the case - conducted 75 interviews with 45 witnesses.

“This was always going to be a difficult and complex investigation"

The Crown have since confirmed that no criminal proceedings will be brought and no Fatal Accident Inquiry was needed.

The investigation also involved thorough analysis of samples from a number of sites in an effort to identify the source of the bacteria that caused the four deaths.

And yet it proved impossible to identify the source of the Legionella bacteria which resulted in the fatalities.

So the Crown Counsel concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any person or organisation for the deaths.

Scientists always warned the source may never be found, not least because Legionnaires' disease can have a long incubation period of up to 19 days.

That means the whatever was producing the bacteria may have stopped by the time investigators are at the scene.

Gary Aitken, Head of the Health and Safety Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said in 2015: “Following a complex and thorough investigation which involved detailed genetic analysis we can only conclude that there is no scientific basis for any prosecution related to the deaths and as a result no criminal proceedings are instructed by Crown Counsel.

“This was always going to be a difficult and complex investigation due to the number of potential sources in the Gorgie area but we continued on in the hope that the necessary scientific evidence would come to light. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened.”