A WOMAN died after falling through an unlocked cellar door in a pub.

The coroner investigating the death of 54-year-old Elaine Horrocks said the pub’s cellar was “dangerous” and criticised the temporary health and safety measures which had been put in place since Mrs Horrocks’ death.

Mrs Horrocks suffered traumatic brain injuries in the fall at the Rosehill Tavern in Leigh Road, Westhoughton, on Saturday, January 13.

Landlady, Kellie McGarry told the inquest she believed she had locked the door behind her after going to get ice and Prosecco, shortly before Mrs Horrocks’ fall.

But the Yale lock had failed to catch, the hearing at Paderborn House, Bolton, was told yesterday.

Mrs Horrocks, of Birch Avenue, Westhoughton had been to see a Neil Diamond tribute act at the pub that night, the hearing heard. Ms McGarry had seen her and given her a hug as she had started work. She said they knew each other from going out in Bolton over the years.

Detective Inspector Daniel Brophy gave evidence to Assistant Coroner John Pollard at the inquest. His report included a summary of CCTV seen by his colleague, DI Daniel Clegg, who began the investigation. DI Brophy told the coroner’s court that CCTV showed Mrs Horrocks ‘struggling’. He said: “It gives the impression she’s had a bit to drink ... CCTV showed her falling from the bar stool.”

The inquest heard that CCTV in the pub did not show the area around the cellar door, which also had doors to the outdoor smoking area and toilets. DI Brophy said there was a period of around 10 minutes where Mrs Horrocks could not be seen. Then CCTV showed a customer fetching bar staff to the cellar.

Ms McGarry, the licensee of the pub, which is owned by the Joseph Holt Brewery, said when she normally went into the cellar she left the door open so she could get a finger round it to open it on her way out. She said she would pull it shut behind her using the lanyard of the key, which then came out of the door and was kept behind the bar.

She said: “I pulled the door closed with the lanyard believing it had clicked shut ... It usually clicks shut and the key pulls out.”

Gillian Patel, a health and safety officer at Bolton Council, confirmed that it would be dangerous for staff to lock the door behind them because the cellar door opened directly onto the steps. She said the door opened inwards, meaning staff needed to stand a few steps down to allow the door to open.

Ms McGarry had taken over the pub in September 2017, having worked there for a year. When questioned about the door not shutting properly, she said: “I will have to live with that.” Ms McGarry was first alerted to the fact someone was in the cellar by pub regular Rob Sawyer. Mr Sawyer said: “I’ll never know why but I opened it, something made me look and as I looked I saw a lady at the bottom of the stairs.”

Mrs Horrocks was at the bottom of nine concrete steps when Ms McGarry came to see her. Ms McGarry said: “I thought she might be asleep ... My first thought was was ‘what is she doing’? I thought she was pulling a stunt. I didn’t know.”

Ms McGarry said she had checked Mrs Horrocks over, put her in the recovery position and left her in the care of her sister. She asked a customer to ring an ambulance and returned to the bar, which was busy. 

It quickly became apparent to the people in the cellar that something was not right with Mrs Horrocks and one person began CPR, the inquest heard.

Ms McGarry was called back to the cellar, where she took over CPR before paramedics arrived at the scene. Mrs Horrocks was taken to Salford Royal Hospital where she died the next day.

Dr Daniel Du Plessis performed Mrs Horrocks’ post mortem examination. He told the inquest Mrs Horrocks died due to brain swelling, fluid on her lungs and a lung infection all brought on by blunt force trauma, in line with falling and hitting her head.

Since Mrs Horrocks’ death, a gate has been put across near the cellar door with a bolt to prevent customers from going near the cellar. Mr Pollard said he was not happy with this as Mrs Patel had said this was a temporary measure and health and safety inspectors had wanted permanent changes made. Mr Pollard questioned why the pub had not been pushed to improve safety since Mrs Horrocks’ death. Mrs Patel said she would make sure it was looked into.

Mrs Horrocks’ family, including husband, Peter and sister Vanita Fairhurst, were at the inquest and had been upset by the police report into her death, which referred to her as ‘Horrocks’. DI Brophy offered his apologies and Mr Pollard said he would be writing to the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police about the treatment of victims’ families.

Coroner concluded Mrs Horrocks death was accidental and said he would be also be writing to Joseph Holt Brewery with a regulation 28 notice, telling them he was fearful of future deaths at the premises. The health and safety investigation has not yet been concluded.