Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Artist case 'has not been proved'

Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings
Claire Furmedge and Elizabeth Collings died

An artist whose inflatable artwork blew away in a gust of wind, killing two women, could not have predicted weather conditions, his defence said.

The legal team defending Dreamspace artist Maurice Agis, 77, said the case against him had not been proved.

Mr Agis from east London, denies two counts of manslaughter and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The incident took place at a park in Chester-le-Street, Durham, in July 2006 when the artwork was on a tour.

The artwork lifted into the air, killing Claire Furmedge, 38, and Elizabeth Collings, 68. Other visitors to the walk-in attraction were badly hurt, including a three-year-old girl.

Mr Agis' barrister told Newcastle Crown Court he could not be convicted of manslaughter.

Cut ropes

Timothy Langdale QC said: "We know in this case that Dreamspace lifted off the ground because something happened which the ropes and anchorage could not withstand, whatever it was."

Mr Langdale said that three ropes anchoring the structure to the ground had been cut, and said this could have played a "significant" role in the accident.

"If you are satisfied that the weather conditions on that day caused the ropes and anchors to give way and were reasonably foreseeable, then causation is proved.

"If however, you can't be sure that the three cut ropes did not play a significant part in causing Dreamspace to lift off the ground, that but for those ropes being cut, Dreamspace would not have lifted off the ground, then causation is not proved."

The prosecution alleges Mr Agis was grossly negligent, as Dreamspace was not correctly tethered.

Mr Agis has not given evidence in his defence.

His barrister told the jury they should not make any negative inferences from his decision not to give evidence.

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