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Legionnaires saga continues

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The drama surrounding the council architect accused of causing the worst outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in the UK has taken yet another turn.

Less than a month after Gillian Beckingham was cleared of manslaughter charges for the death of five people, Barrow Borough Council has decided to launch its own inquiry into the incident, which took place four years ago at the council-run arts centre in the Cumbrian town.

The outbreak, which led to more than 170 people being infected with the disease, was traced to a faulty air-conditioning unit and the finger was pointed at the 48-year-old former head of the council's design services for cancelling a contract to test the ageing machinery.

Beckingham was fined £15,000 for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, but was acquitted of causing the deaths of four women and one man - the oldest, Richard Macaulay, was 88.

However, following the court case in which the council was also handed a £125,000 fine, the authority has vowed to hold its own in-depth investigation. The move could lead to disciplinary action against other staff members.

A spokesman for the authority denied reports that Beckingham would again have to give evidence during the inquiry.

by Richard Waite

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