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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
Commuter's 'walkway death escape'
Professor Sally Baldwin
Professor Sally Baldwin was in Italy to celebrate her birthday
A commuter warned police of a hole in a mechanical walkway just hours before a British professor fell through it to her death, he has told a court in Rome.

Sally Baldwin, 62, died at Rome's Tiburtina station in October 2003.

Three directors from maintenance firm OCS are being tried on manslaughter and negligence charges, which they deny.

Commuter Claudio Valetti said he narrowly avoided being dragged into the hole more than two hours before Professor Baldwin was killed.

OCS managing director Domenico Leti, 71, and the two managers in charge of maintenance operations, Leonardo Casali, 32, and Luana Lepore, 28, were charged after the accident.

In October 2004 two maintenance men - Sergio Marfut, 30, and Massimo Migotto, 38 - were given suspended jail sentences over the incident.

'Almost killed'

Mr Valetti said: "I was on the walkway when all of a sudden a hole opened up in front of me. If it hadn't been for a woman behind me I would have fallen through.

I certainly did not see any tapes or barriers by the walkway
Marco Testiccoli - policeman

"I was so shocked. Even now just thinking about it makes me realise how close I came. As I was grabbed back I tried to push the stop button but nothing happened, the walkway just kept on going."

When he reached the end he told a policeman what had happened, explaining that he had "almost been killed".

Railway policeman Marco Testiccoli told the court he was alerted to the problem by passengers but was given the wrong platform number - 23 instead of the correct number, 24.

However he checked both 23 and 24 and saw no hole, he said.

"I had been told it was platform 23 so just to be sure I got some tape and put it around that walkway.

"I certainly did not see any tapes or barriers by the walkway on platform 24."

'Something terrible'

The court earlier heard the walkway was under repair and should have been surrounded by barriers to prevent it being used.

A rail worker who was badly injured while trying to help Prof Baldwin sobbed as he described the incident to the court last month.

The scene of the accident at Tiburtina Station, Rome
A rail worker was seriously injured trying to save the British woman

Still on crutches, Vincenzo Pratico, said he heard a piercing scream and "knew instantly something terrible had happened".

"I remember shouting at people to press the stop button and they did but nothing happened it just kept moving."

Ms Baldwin, originally from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, moved from Scotland to York after divorcing her husband Jack of 30 years.

They remained close and she had planned to celebrate her birthday with him and another friend in Italy when the tragedy happened.

The trial has been adjourned until October.


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