Ellen Branagh

A lack of mortar fixing a mantelpiece to a fireplace contributed to the death of a young boy when it collapsed on top of him, an inquest jury ruled yesterday.

Four-year-old Matthew Green died from severe chest injuries after the 110lb stone lintel fell on him at his home in Towcester, Northamptonshire, on October 15, 2005.

Recording a narrative verdict, the jury at his inquest in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, said that Matthew died of cardiac injury caused by blunt chest trauma.

The verdict said: "At approximately 11.30am on October 15, 2005, at 10 Coulthard Close, Towcester, Matthew William Green died as a result of the stone mantelpiece impacting on his chest.

"The mantelpiece became detached from the headstone as a result of a failure to apply a sufficient amount of approximately mixed mortar and/or additional fixings.

"The lack of national industry standards and regulation for the fitting of fire surrounds, including training, installation, quality inspection, secondary review and audit paper trails, were also a contributory factor."

The four-day inquest heard that Matthew's parents, David and Gail, had bought the house from Persimmon Homes in 2003 but had never had any concerns about the safety of the fireplace.

On the day of the tragedy, Matthew was at home with his 38-year-old father and sister Rachel, now 15, while his mother was shopping.

Matthew and Mr Green greeted family friends Alan and Karen Brugnoli at the front door before the youngster ran off into the lounge.

His father described hearing a "loud crash" from the living room. The group ran into the lounge to find Matthew lying under the stone mantel, which had broken in two and crushed him.

Matthew was rushed to Northampton General Hospital by air ambulance, but died later.

The inquest heard that his ribs had been fractured and his heart had been ruptured.

Persimmon Homes, which sub-contracted company KD Childs to fit the fireplaces, had not checked the standards and had never received documents about how fireplaces were fitted. A mantelpiece had previously fallen off at another Persimmon Home but it was treated as a "one-off" incident.

Speaking through tears outside the inquest, Mrs Green said: "Matthew was a lovely boy, full of life, laughter and happiness.

"This tragic incident has devastated our whole family and has been particularly traumatic for David, myself and Matthew's sister Rachel."