Hopetoun House fall man ‘couldn’t believe he had been stupid enough to jump from wall’ court hears

Hopetoun House, where the man sustained his injury
Hopetoun House, where the man sustained his injury
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A MAN who is suing over a fall at a stately home had said he could not believe he was stupid enough to try to jump from a wall with his grandson in his arms, a court has heard.

A nurse who went to John Cowan’s aid after the accident said he had told her he was in a hurry to get the child home because he was tired.

Carol Terry, 41, insisted she had a clear recollection of the night and rejected suggestions that Mr Cowan had been in shock or she had misinterpreted his words.

Mr Cowan, 65, of Livingston, West Lothian, is to receive £35,000 compensation if a judge rules that Hopetoun House Preservation Trust was liable for his accident in September 2008, after attending a “bat walk” in the grounds of the house at South Queensferry.

He was walking back to his car in the dark with his five-year-old grandson when he fell five feet from a “ha-ha” wall and broke his ankle. A ha-ha is a garden feature often seen on large estates which provides a physical barrier to keep livestock off lawns without fencing spoiling the view from the house. On one side, the top of the wall is level with the lawn and there is a sharp drop on the other. The ground slopes up from the foot of the wall towards the level of the lawn.

Mr Cowan said in evidence that he did not see the ha-ha and simply stepped off the edge, thinking he was walking on a flat lawn.

However, Mrs Terry, a sister with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service who runs a bat hospital in her spare time, told the Court of Session in Edinburgh that Mr Cowan had given her a different account.

“He said he could not believe he had been that stupid when he had been told not to walk that way. He asked me to look at his grandson because his grandson was in his arms when he jumped from the ha-ha,” said Mrs Terry.

“He had reached the ha-ha and knew it was there and could have walked round but he chose not to because he wanted to get the bairn home because he was tired so he took the fastest route and jumped from the ha-ha. He said he did not think it was as high as it was.”

Graeme Middleton, counsel for Mr Cowan, suggested that people said things when they were in shock, but Mrs Terry replied: “He had not gone into shock at that time. He was very coherent.”

In his evidence, Mr Cowan said he had grabbed his grandson as he went over the ha-ha, but Mrs Terry stated: “That’s not what he told me that night.”

Mr Middleton asked if it was possible that those were the words Mr Cowan had spoken but she had misinterpreted them.

“I don’t think so...I am quite clear in my recollection” said Mrs Terry.

The judge, Lord Bracadale, will give his decision leater.