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Death by home improvement

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The daughter of Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democrat MP, was electrocuted after builders failed to follow the IEE Wiring Regs when installing her fitted kitchen, a coroner ruled this week.

Mary Wherry, 34, the mother of two young sons, is believed to have been hanging a spoon on to a metal, wall-mounted utensil rack when she received an electric shock.

The coroner was told that every time a metal object was placed on the rack, there was the chance of a small electric shock.

Mrs Wherry's shock proved fatal because her ankle was touching the metal-fronted open door of the dishwasher, completing the circuit.

Fulham coroner's court was told that Mrs Wherry's family became suspicious that something was wrong in the kitchen after a family friend received a small shock when she tried to hang a colander on the same rack hours after Mrs Wherry's death.

Police brought in electrical experts who found that the Huddersfield-based builders who installed the kitchen in 1999 had broken a string of safety guidelines issued by the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The electric cable, which led from a fuse box to the extractor fan hood above the cooker, was not insulated and was only 10mm deep in the wall instead of the recommended 50mm.

The cable also meandered across the wall instead of running in strict horizontal or vertical lines. Mrs Wherry's husband, Jake, put up the rack three years before her death and thought he had positioned it away from the cables, although he did not check to make sure.

The evidence from David Latimer, an electrical engineer who examined the kitchen, was that a screw from the rack had caught the side of the cable.

Over the years, the rack and screw moved slightly so that eventually the screw was touching the live wire in the cable.

Det Insp Tim Dobson, of Richmond police, told the court that a two-and-a-half-inch black mark surrounded by yellow bruising was found on Mrs Wherry's left ankle, indicating that her contact with the dishwasher had completed the circuit.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: “I am going to record that the death was the consequence of home improvement work.”

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