Grieving Sheffield mum in landmark legal battle for compensation

Laurie Swift.
Laurie Swift.
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A MUM battling for compensation after her partner was killed in a horrific accident at work is taking her landmark legal battle to the Court of Appeal.

Alan Winters was aged 28 when he was crushed to death at the Davy Markham factory in Darnall, Sheffield, nearly five years ago.

He had just moved into a new house in Littledale with his pregnant girlfriend Laurie Swift – now 30 – when the tragedy happened.

Six weeks after his death, their son Alan Jnr was born, but Laurie has so far been denied compensation because of a law which bans payouts to couples if they are unmarried or have not lived together for two years.

Speaking to The Star for the first time since her partner died, the mum-of-two said the legislation, the 1976 Fatal Accidents Act, is ‘outdated and needs to be changed’.

Laurie said: “People don’t live how they used to years ago.

“I hope it will change, so no-one else will go through what I went through.”

Alan, a crane driver, was killed when a group of employees tried to extract a five-tonne crate from a massive shipping container using a forklift truck. He was crushed between the top of the forklift truck’s roll cage and the lid of the container while trying to unhook a chain.

Davy Markham was fined £33,333, with £49,247 costs, in 2011.

Last year Laurie went to the High Court in her quest for compensation, but judge Mr Justice Eady ruled only Parliament could change the law.

As their dependent, Alan Jnr, now four, received damages but, had the couple been cohabiting for two years, Laurie would also have been entitled to £400,000.

Laurie, who also has an older daughter, Leah, said it was not about the money.

She said: “It would help, but I’ve been on my own for five years without, and I think I’ve done quite all right.

“It’s hard, obviously, because kids want things and want to go on holiday, and I can’t afford to have a car. The money would support all three of us, it’s not just for me.”

Laurie said she found the repeated court hearings ‘frustrating’.

“You get back on your feet and start learning to cope, but every time it keeps being dragged back up again,” she said. “It doesn’t help me to move on.”

Fighting back tears, she continued: “I don’t really remember the exact moment I heard Alan had died. It was like a blur, like a bad dream that wasn’t really happening. When they took me to see him, that was the hardest.

“Alan was lovely, he was kind and caring, really laid-back and just amazing. We would have got married. We talked about having more children after Alan was born.

“He enjoyed his job, he was a hard worker.”

Alan, a former pupil at Handsworth Grange School, worked at Sheffield Forgemasters before taking the job at Davy Markham.

Laurie said she felt ‘upset’ Alan Jnr will never meet his father.

“It’s getting harder, he’s at an age now where he’s asking questions, asking where his dad is,” she said. “He knows he is not around but I don’t think he understands why.

“He’s like his dad in every way. He’s got his dad’s eyes and his mannerisms. It’s hard but it’s nice, just being able to see it.”

Laurie’s case will be heard at the Appeal Court in London tomorrow, where her lawyers will argue the 1976 Act breaches the mum’s right to enjoy a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.