Speaking at the inquest, Kaden’s mother, Lisa Mallet, described hearing a smash then seeing the barrier – which was being used as a queue divider – on top of Kaden. She said that at first she thought he was quiet, before realising he was not moving.
Student Niamh Gillespie told the inquest she was standing behind Kaden and his mother and sister as they queued for the till. She said the second time he tried to swing on the barrier she saw his feet slip and it fall on him.
The inquest was also been told there was no manufacturer guidance on how they should be secured to the floor. The barrier maker said there were no rules on how they were attached to floors as they differed in each branch.
Barrier manufacturer David Renshaw of Realm Projects told jurors at Reading Town Hall his firm had made 88 barrier units – three of which had gone to the Reading Topshop store. He said: “It was a totally fit for purpose component that did not fail in any way whatsoever.” He added the company’s approved design drawings stated the units should be “fixed in place to the floor.”
Manufacturer Realm Projects was not involved in the installation of the barriers – that role fell to the shop fitters at each store, the inquest heard.
Former store procurement manager for Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop, Alan Prior explained the barrier had originally been designed in metal and would have been bolted to the floor. But after the supplier went into liquidation in 2012, Realm Projects was hired to make similar barriers from medium density fibreboard (MDF).
An Arcadia spokesman, said: “Arcadia takes health and safety very seriously and continues to fully co-operate with the relevant authorities in relation to this tragic accident.
“Arcadia is unable to comment any more specifically at this time. Our thoughts remain with Kaden’s family and we extend every sympathy to them for their loss.”
The barriers, which doubled as a display unit, each weighed 110kg and would have been loaded with products encouraging “impulse” purchases as customers waited in line.