Wolverhampton: Waste company & yard boss found guilty of manslaughter after man crushed to death by shredder
A waste company and a yard manager have been found guilty of manslaughter in a unanimous verdict after a labourer was crushed to death inside an industrial shredder. The remains of David Willis, 29, who worked for Timmins Waste Services (TWS) in Wolverhampton, were never recovered from the machine, designed to shred wood and commercial waste after the fatal fall on September 15, 2018.
TWS and yard manager Brian Timmins, 54, who was operating the diesel-powered machine at the time, have been on trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court accused of “systemic failures” which led to Willis’s death. A jury of eight men and four women found the waste company guilty of corporate manslaughter and Timmins, of Fair Lawn, Albrighton, guilty of manslaughter after deliberating for more than 10 hours. The jury could not reach a verdict on a charge of perverting the course of justice levelled at Timmins.
The trial had been told that Willis was crushed “within seconds” when he fell into an industrial shredder while attempting to clear a blockage. The trial had also been told that Timmins was operating the shredder when it stopped “abruptly”. After investigating the machine, he used a digger to lift Willis on top and inside to see what the problem was, jurors were told.
Prosecutor Christine Agnew KC said CCTV evidence showed the machine was still operational at the time but should have been turned off. When Mr Willis disappeared inside the machine, Timmins was seen on CCTV looking around the yard and inside the shredder’s ‘hopper’, which guides the waste towards the machine’s blades, before calling Willis’s phone.
He was then seen looking out the yard gates and running around the site, before returning to the digger and continuing to operate the shredder. The next day, Timmins, and other employees who were working that day, loaded and disposed of 80 tonnes of recycled waste by taking it to a landfill site in Cannock, Staffordshire, which “must” have included the remains of Willis, Agnew said.
Willis, who lived with his mother Caroline, was reported missing by her on the evening of September 15 when he did not return home to Tipton. He reportedly only agreed to work that fateful day as a favour to the company who employed him as a labourer. Agnew told the jury that Willis' mum called Timmins just before 11pm to ask if he had seen her son, but he said words to the effect of: “Not since this morning when he left and walked up the road.”
When police attended the yard days later on Monday September 17, CCTV footage showed Willis falling into the shredder, prompting a search of the landfill site in Cannock. Part of a tabard that may have belonged to him was discovered.
The prosecutor said Timmins’ conduct on the day of Willis’s death “fell far below what would be expected of a reasonable and competent person in his position and was truly, exceptionally bad”.
It was also the prosecution’s case that Timmins “knew that Mr Willis had died in the shredder; he knew that some sort of criminal investigation or judicial proceedings were inevitable and he took active steps to interfere with evidence and to conceal the facts of the death”.
Timmins, who was granted unconditional bail, and TWS will be sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court on a date to be fixed. A decision is yet to be made on a retrial on the perverting course of justice charge.
Mr Justice Jacobs lifted any reporting restrictions, saying: “The public should know about this.” Before jurors were discharged, Justice Jacobs thanked them for staying “immensely focused” throughout the trial.