Trust fined after butler was killed in Burghley House lift

Arthur Mellar, who was killed at Burghley House
Arthur Mellar, who was killed at Burghley House

The trust which runs Burghley House has been handed a fine of more than a quarter of a million pounds after a butler was crushed to death.

Arthur Mellar, 48, was killed at Burghley House on July 12, 2014 when a luggage lift descended on him while he was trying to free an item of luggage which had become stuck.

Arthur Mellar and Gerwin Castillo

Arthur Mellar and Gerwin Castillo

Peterborough Crown Court heard that a luggage lift was being used to lift guests’ bags from the ground to second floor in the private area of Burghley House when one of the bags became jammed and the lift stopped.

At some point, the butler attempted to free the jammed bags but the lift descended on him, trapping him between the lift cage and the bannister of the stairwell housing the lift.

Examination of the lift showed that it had not been fitted with a slack rope detector, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told the court an assessment on the lift would have shown the lift should have been examined and tested.

A competent lift engineer should have identified defects with the lift, including a lack of a slack rope detector.

Burghley House Preservation Trust Limited, whose registered office is 61 St Martins, Stamford, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and on Monday was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,863.

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE inspector Alison Ashworth said: “Arthur Mellar was killed when a luggage lift descended on him while he was trying to free an item of luggage.

“This was a completely avoidable incident, and Burghley House admitted its role in it, but of course that will be little comfort for Mr Mellar’s family.

“I would urge any business using lifts, particularly older lifts such as the one in this case, watching this case to ensure correct measures are taken in relation to maintenance of lifts and that competent lift engineers are employed when necessary to identify defects.”

In a statement released after the sentencing, David Pennell, estates director at Burghley House, described Mr Mellar’s death as a tragic accident.

He said: “Health and safety matters have always been paramount across all activities at Burghley and what happened to Arthur Mellar in July 2014 was a dreadful and tragic accident.

“Our thoughts are with Gerwin [Arthur’s partner] and Arthur’s family at this time.”

Arthur Mellar’s partner has said he is still struggling to come to terms with his tragic death.

Speaking to the Mercury this week, Gerwin Castillo, who lives in Stamford, said: “I appreciate the court’s decision and am glad the trust has accepted it was at fault.

“The fine is significant but no price can be put on Arthur’s life – it does not reflect his value.

“I thought we were going to grow old together, to be together for the rest our of lives.

“It is very difficult losing your true love – it’s had a big impact on me.”