Home > Just My Luck

Just My Luck
Author: Parks, Adele

THE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE GAZETTE

9th November, 2015

 

* * *

 


Elaine Winterdale, 37, a property manager, has been handed a suspended prison sentence for failing to maintain a faulty gas boiler that caused the death of two tenants from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Reveka Albu, 29, was found dead with her son Benke, 2, by her husband Mr Toma Albu, 32, at a property they rented in Reading, on 23rd December 2014.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, Ms Winterdale was today sentenced at Reading Crown Court for breaches of gas safety laws after she failed to arrange gas safety checks to be carried out at the property over a three-year period, despite assuring her employer, the owner of the property, that she had done so.

In June 2011, an employee of National Grid Gas visited the property to replace the gas meter. The boiler was labelled as ‘immediately dangerous’ due to ‘fumes at open flue’ and was disconnected. A report was left with Mrs Albu and subsequently a letter was sent to Ms Winterdale, which she failed to respond to or pass to the owner of the property.

The boiler was not repaired. For two and a half years the only heating in the home was from one borrowed electric fire.

On 22nd October 2014, Mr Toma Albu was away from home overnight and returned to find the flat warm; his wife informed him that after repeated petitions Ms Winterdale had finally arranged for the boiler to be reconnected.

On the evening of 23rd December 2014, Mr Albu returned home after a double shift to find his wife and son dead. Tests showed Mrs Albu’s blood contained 61 per cent carbon monoxide. A level of 50 per cent is enough to be fatal.

Ms Winterdale pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Gas Safety Regulations and was given a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also given 200 hours community service, was fined £4,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £17,500.

 

 

1


Lexi


Saturday, 20th April

I can’t face going straight home to Jake. I’m not ready to deal with this. I need to try to process it first. But how? Where do I start? I have no idea. The blankness in my mind terrifies me. I always know what to do. I always have a solution, a way of tackling something, giving it a happy spin. I’m Lexi Greenwood, the woman everyone knows of as the fixer, the smiler (some might even slightly snidely call me a do-gooder). Lexi Greenwood, wife, mother, friend.

You think you know someone. But you don’t know anyone, not really. You never can.

I need a drink. I drive to our local. Sod it, I’ll leave the car at the pub and walk home, pick it up in the morning. I order a glass of red wine, a large one, then I look for a seat tucked away in the corner where I can down my drink alone. It’s Easter weekend, and a rare hot one. The place is packed. As I thread my way through the heaving bar, a number of neighbours raise a glass, gesturing to me to join them; they ask after the kids and Jake. Everyone else in the pub seems celebratory, buoyant. I feel detached. Lost. That’s the thing about living in a small village, you recognise everyone. Sometimes that reassures me, sometimes it’s inconvenient. I politely and apologetically deflect their friendly overtures and continue in my search for a solitary spot. Saturday vibes are all around me, but I feel nothing other than stunned, stressed, isolated.

You think you know someone.

What does this mean for our group? Our frimily. Friends that are like family. What a joke. Blatantly, we’re not friends anymore. I’ve been trying to hide from the facts for some time, hoping there was a misunderstanding, an explanation; nothing can explain away this.

I told Jake I’d only be a short while; I should text him to say I’ll be longer. I reach for my phone and realise in my haste to leave the house, I haven’t brought it with me. Jake will be wondering where I am; I don’t care. I down my wine. The acidity hits my throat, a shock and a relief at once. Then I go to the bar to order a second.

The local pub is only a ten-minute walk away from our home but by the time I attempt the walk back, the red wine had taken effect. Unfortunately, I am feeling the sort of drunk that nurtures paranoia and fury, rather than a light head or heart. What can I do to right this wrong? I have to do something. I can’t carry on as normal, pretending I know nothing of it. Can I?

As I approach home, I see Jake at the window, peering out. I barely recognise him. He looks taut, tense. On spotting me, he runs to fling open the front door.

‘Lexi, Lexi, quickly come in here,’ he hiss-whispers, clearly agitated. ‘Where have you been? Why didn’t you take your phone? I’ve been calling you. I needed to get hold of you.’

What now? My first thoughts turn to our son. ‘Is it Logan? Has he hurt himself?’ I ask anxiously. I’m already teetering on the edge; my head quickly goes to a dark place. Split skulls, broken bones. A dash to A&E isn’t unheard of; thirteen-year-old Logan has daredevil tendencies and the sort of mentality that thinks shimmying down a drainpipe is a reasonable way to exit his bedroom in order to go outside and kick a football about. My fifteen-year-old daughter, Emily, rarely causes me a moment’s concern.

‘No, no, he’s fine. Both the kids are in their rooms. It’s… Look, come inside, I can’t tell you out here.’ Jake is practically bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. I can’t read him. My head is too fuzzy with wine and full of rage and disgust. I resent Jake for causing more drama, although he has no idea what shit I’m dealing with. I’ve never seen him quite this way before. If I touched him, I might get an electric shock; he oozes a dangerous energy.

I follow my husband into the house. He is hurrying, urging me to speed up. I slow down, deliberately obtuse. In the hallway he turns to me, takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair but won’t, can’t, meet my eyes. For a crazy moment I think he is about to confess to having an affair. ‘OK, just tell me, did you buy a lottery ticket this week?’ he asks.

‘Yes.’ I have bought a lottery ticket every week of my life for the last fifteen years. Despite all the bother last week, I have stuck to my habit.

Jake takes in another deep breath, sucking all the oxygen from the hallway. ‘OK, and did you—’ he breaks off, finally drags his eyes to meet mine. I’m not sure what I see in his gaze, an almost painful longing, fear and panic. Yet at the same time there is hope there too. ‘Did you pick the usual numbers?’

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