Hugo Boss manager warned of mirror nine months before it crushed four-year-old Crawley boy

Four year old Austen Harrison who died at Bicester Village retail outlet in June 2013 ENGSUS00120130717125114
Four year old Austen Harrison who died at Bicester Village retail outlet in June 2013 ENGSUS00120130717125114
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A Hugo Boss manager warned employees and contractors to fit a mirror correctly nine months before it crushed a four-year-old Crawley boy, an inquest heard.

Austen Harrison was waiting for his father Simon to try on suits when the 118kg mirror fell on him in the fitting room.

“The three-way mirror was certainly not a free-standing mirror and to leave it standing on the floor would have been inherently dangerous due to its size and weight.It needed to be fixed securely to the wall.”

Ben Mareschal, Hugo Boss head of shop construction

Mr Harrison said he heard a “quick loud sudden bang” and turned around to see the mirror on the floor of the Hugo Boss outlet in Bicester Village, Oxon, crushing his son.

Austen was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford after the incident, which happened at around 8.30pm on June 4, 2013, but died four days later from head injuries.

Ben Mareschal, Hugo Boss head of shop construction, visited the store in September 2012, a month after it opened, and saw the three-way mirror standing in the wrong part of the shop.

He said: “I clearly remember the three-way mirror was in the wrong location, it was not in the fitting area.

“I recall putting my hand on the mirror and I said, ‘Guys, it can’t be here, it needs to be fitted properly’.

“It was not attached to the wall and was masking a gap in the wall fittings. I walked to the fitting room and indicated where it needed to go.

“The three-way mirror was certainly not a free-standing mirror and to leave it standing on the floor would have been inherently dangerous due to its size and weight.

“It needed to be fixed securely to the wall.”

Mr Mareschal visited the shop just before leaving the company for a new job and sent an email to area manager Matthew Pink, copying in contractors, containing an update on work at the store a month after it opened in August 2012, the inquest in Oxford was told this week.

It said another night of work was needed to install items including a three-way mirror, which meant the wall would have to be reinforced.

He said: “If I had received notification the mirror was not fitted correctly, I would have taken the necessary steps to rectify that.

“I was very shocked to hear about the incident.”

Mr Mareschal, who has since left the company, said Hugo Boss did not cut corners in relation to health and safety but admitted the job was “low cost and fast paced.”

When asked if he ordered the mirror, Mr Marescal replied: “Yes, from Germany. I do not know who fitted it but it would have been the contracting staff because two men would need to move the item.”

When asked about the email he sent, the construction manager said: “From the look of this, it seems there were two nights of planned work for everything and it overran so another night of work had to be planned.”

Coroner Mr Salter asked: “The problem is that the mirror was placed against the wall and not fixed to it. Who was responsible to ensure it was fitted?”

He replied: “At the time there was an issue with the contractors Pattons. They were going out of business and discussions were happening about that. The mirror comes with an installation guide.”

When asked why he did not follow up to ensure the mirror had been fitted in the right place, he said: “I would expect it to be done.”

Keith Johns, a project manager for Hush Minoan, was brought in to liaise between Pattons and Hugo Boss. He said: “The only reference to a three-way mirror was in a list of fixtures included in the folder Ben gave to me.

“Nothing indicated when it was ordered or delivered.

“I am familiar with the three-way mirror. It is very large and heavy and walls would need to be reinforced to hold it.

“Ben instructed us to retain the existing mirrors in the store. No three-way mirror was fitted.”

Mr Johns said the project was signed off in September and there were no instructions to reinforce the wall because there was not enough time and it would have cost around £1,000.

He visited the store again after the incident and said: “I was not involved in any decision to install a three-way mirror in the store.”

Colin Quinn from shopfitters Pattons said he was instructed to kit out the store before it opened. He told the inquest: “All of the existing mirrors were to remain in situ and painted black to support the brand.

“No mirrors were to be installed. The three-way mirror never appeared. At the handover, there was no three-way mirror in the store.”

When asked why he would have been copied into the email between Ben and Matthew, he replied: “Just for communication.”

The inquest continues.