Resident: 'Absolutely unforgivable' more was not done to prevent trespassing before Sheffield student plunge tragedy
A resident who campaigned for more to be done to secure the site of a derelict Sheffield hotel where a student fell to his death says it is 'absolutely unforgivable' that security measures were not tightened in time to prevent the teen's tragic death.
Senior Coroner Christopher Dorries concluded yesterday that 19-year-old Thomas Rhodes died of injuries caused when he fell from the ninth floor of the Hallam Tower building in Broomhill on Mother's Day - March 26 - last year.
Thomas' two-day inquest heard how the site of the formerly grand hotel, which has been standing empty and derelict since 2004, had become a haven for 'urban explorers,' attracting many students to the site.
Professor Peter Horton helped to set up a residents' action group in 2012 that campaigned for something to be done about the dilapidation in the building, and the number of trespassers making their way into the site.
Speaking after Thomas' inquest, Professor Horton said: "In 2012 we said there was the potential for serious harm because it's a dangerous building, and always has been. We complained and our feeling always was that the council never got to grips with the scale of the problem.
"Their claim was they did everything that was possible within their power, but the result was they didn't achieve anything. There were as many people getting in in 2017, as there were in 2012."
"It should be possible to have made it more difficult to get on to that site. I've witnessed children of 11 or 12-years-old getting on to the site there."
Mr Dorries told Sheffield Coroner's Court that 'access remained' to the Hallam Tower site, despite owners 'evident efforts' to secure the building.
He added: "The evidence suggests strongly to me that the description of an epidemic of trespass (as described in a comment to Professor Horton by one of his neighbours) was not an undue exaggeration. One only has to go through the evidence of students read here, and particularly those four present at the time Thomas was found to realise that access to the site (as opposed to the hotel) was not difficult."
First year geography student Thomas entered the building alone, and was found by two students who happened to be trespassing on the site when he fatally fell at around 3.20pm.
A spokesman for the Blenheim Group, who have owned the Hallam Towers site since 2015, said after Thomas inquest: "The Blenheim Group as a company, but also as human beings and as parents wish to express their sadness at Thomas' death.
"They recognise the shattering effect such a loss would have on any family, and clearly has had on Thomas' family. They wish to pass on their sincere condolences to his friends and family."
The Hallam Towers site was partially demolished in September last year, after the building's owners brought their development plans forward.
While the Hallam Tower site is now infamous, it opened in 1965 as Sheffield's first £1million hotel, attracting A-Listers such as David Bowie Elton John with its restaurants and bars, ballroom, heated swimming pool and three-and-a-half acres of gardens.
It was even considered so luxurious that a Ford car advert was filmed there. Within 15 years, other city centre hotels were competing for custom
In 1986 after various takeovers, the complex changed name to the Hallam Tower Post House Hotel before becoming the Forte Crest Sheffield and the Holiday Inn Sheffield West.
It closed for the last time in 2004 and was put up for sale nine years later.