Engineer cleared after 92-year-old fell to death in lift shaft at care home

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An engineer was cleared of a health and safety breach after a 92-year-old woman fell down a lift shaft and died at a care home.

Elizabeth Young was a resident at Heathdale Care Home, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, when she plunged 10ft in September 2010. Her walking aid was found beside her.

Lift engineer Paul Thompson, 60, had been called to the home two days earlier to carry out repairs, and the prosecution claimed he failed to lock the door to the lift on the second floor, where the dementia patient lived.

The lift was still out of action at the time of Mrs Young’s fall.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court cleared him of a health and safety charge after deliberating for three hours. Mr Thompson puffed out his cheeks when the not guilty verdict was read out and mouthed “thank you” to the jury of eight women and four men.

His employers Derwent Lift Services, of Annfield Plain, County Durham, were cleared of three charges but convicted of failing to conduct a suitable risk assessment. The firm will be sentenced at a later date.

Outside court Mr Thompson, who has more than 40 years experience, declined to comment.

After the case, a North Tyneside Council spokesman said: “Although we are disappointed with today’s outcome, we respect the court’s decision.”