Plan to fell diseased tree a year before it killed grandmother in Wakefield

Elaine Davison pictured with husband Edward
Elaine Davison pictured with husband Edward

A WAKEFIELD Council worker had started making plans for a diseased tree to be felled a year before it came down in high winds and killed a grandmother, an inquest jury heard.

Elaine Davison, 55, and her husband Edward’s car was struck by a tree which fell outside St Peter’s Church, Aberford Road, Wakefield on November 11, 2010.

Front seat passenger Mrs Davison, of Pontefract, suffered fatal injuries, an inquest jury at Wakefield Coroner’s Court has heard.

Wakefield Council arboricultural officer Matthew Stubbings had identified the horse chestnut tree, referred to as tree 1942, was diseased in July 2009 and noted that it should be removed.

The inquest jury was told police called Mr Stubbings in the early hours of November 14 2009 after a large and a branch fell from a tree outside the church on to Aberford Road.

Mr Stubbings, who suffered a stroke in 2007 and gave evidence via Skype, said he did not know which tree it had fallen from. He said he looked to see if there were signs it had come from the diseased tree.

He went on to start arrangements for the tree he had noted to be diseased in July to be felled.

In November 2009 he obtained a quote from a company for traffic lights to be put in place on Aberford Road while the tree was felled.

Coroner David Hinchliff said Mr Stubbings e mailed a council colleague seeking an expense code for the traffic management and wrote: “Every time the wind blows I get twitchy.” Mr Hinchliff said to Mr Stubbings: “You said you didn’t put that in over concerns for tree 1942, you put it in as banter.” The jury was told the council department that dealt with trees was very busy and that Mr Stubbing intended for the tree be felled within the next few years.

Mr Stubbings said he was unaware of a Wakefield Council report that fungus had been found on the tree in 1992 and that it had been recommended for removal in 1999.

Notes detailing that information were kept in a separate file containing historical records.

The jury inquest continues.