Keane Wallis-Bennett FAI: Pupil was ‘leaning against wall’

Keane Wallis-Bennett, pictured, passed away in April 2014 following the collapse of a modesty wall at Liberton High School
Keane Wallis-Bennett, pictured, passed away in April 2014 following the collapse of a modesty wall at Liberton High School

A TEENAGER has described how she was leaning against a wall while “having a laugh” moments before it fell and killed one of her classmates at Liberton High School.

The girl was giving evidence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court as a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the death of Keane Wallis-Bennett progressed through its second week.

Keane, 12, died on April 1, 2014 after a freestanding “modesty” wall fell on top of her in the girls’ changing room of Liberton High’s old PE block.

Her former classmate, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in court via video link to give evidence about the moments leading up to Keane’s death.

Questioned by Gavin Anderson, the advocate representing Keane’s parents, the teenager explained she had been leaning against the modesty wall with a friend shortly before it fell.

She described having her back against the modesty wall and her feet above the ground on the opposite shower wall.

She said: “We were sort of mucking about, having a laugh.”

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The girl said they only had their feet up against the shower wall for “a couple of seconds”, adding: “I can’t remember what happened after because all I remember was the wall falling back.”

The teenager added she didn’t know if she had been pushing back against the modesty wall, saying it was more a case of “just trying to keep myself up”.

She said she remembered her friend was doing the same thing, but wasn’t sure if it was at the same time.

Mr Anderson asked if, when giving her statement to police after the incident, she had been “scared” to tell them everything that happened prior to the wall’s collapse.

The teenager responded that she had, saying: “I didn’t know what to do”. She also mentioned that, at the time, she was “already getting blamed for stuff” by other pupils.

The girl explained it was the first time she had leant against the wall in such a manner and that she had not seen anyone else doing so before.

She said she had not needed to climb the wall to get into such a position and that she wasn’t sure if the wall had collapsed while she was leaning, or just after.

Everyone was “in shock” afterwards, she added.

The FAI, which got under way last week, is being heard before Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen QC, who thanked the girl for assisting the inquiry.

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She said: “It is important to me and everyone else involved in the inquiry that we have the fullest possible information.”

Another girl called to give evidence described how she was standing to the side of the wall shortly before it fell. She said her leg was bruised after it was hit by the falling masonry.

The girls’ evidence comes after Mark Hatfield, a specialist inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, previously said he could not “definitively” say what caused the wall to fall at the moment it did.

The inquiry continues.