Deadly generator ‘seemed to be working fine’ on boat

Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland, who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning while on a boating holiday in Windermere in the Lake District
Lauren Thornton, 10, and her mother Kelly Webster, 36, both from Leyland, who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning while on a boating holiday in Windermere in the Lake District

A yacht owner who moored his boat alongside the motor cruiser where mum and daughter Kelly Webster and Lauren Thornton died from carbon monoxide poisoning said the generator appeared to be working fine the evening before they died.

Gary Beetham, a sailor with a yacht also moored on Windermere over Easter weekend 2013, said he had been aboard the Bayliner 285 Arniston – owned by Matthew Eteson – on the evening of March 31 and chatted about the generator which caused the deaths of Kelly, 36, and Lauren, 10.

Eteson, 42, denies gross negligence manslaughter after Kelly and Lauren were found dead on board the boat after going below deck for a nap.

An outdoor generator had been fabricated for use below deck and carbon monoxide detectors – which would have alerted the mum and daughter to the danger they were in – had been disconnected.

Giving evidence at Preston Crown Court, Mr Beetham said he had seen Eteson along with his fiancee Kelly and her daughter Lauren on March 31 and enjoyed a pleasant evening with them celebrating his wife’s birthday.

He had been on board the Arniston and chatted to Eteson about the generator he was using to provide power.

He said: “He did say to me he had this generator and he had a silencer on it. I wasn’t on the boat too long but when I went off I made the comment that it was quieter.

“It appeared to be running correctly.”

Mr Beetham added it was not unusual for boats kept on swinging moorings in the lake to use petrol generators as they had no access to electricity supplied on the shore.

He described Eteson, Kelly and Lauren as a “happy and devoted little family”.

Later that day, as the family slept below deck, the generator failed and carbon monoxide leaked into the cabin where Kelly and Lauren slept.

The prosecution allege the modifications Eteson made to fit the silencer to the generator were poorly designed and inadequately tested. Furthermore, as a Gas Safe registered engineer, Eteson should have foreseen the risk in bringing the generator below deck.

Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, Cheshire, denies manslaughter and the trial continues.