21 October 2021

Coroner’s praise for student’s parents facing inquest delay

21 October 2021

The parents of a university student killed outside a city centre bar in 2018 told a coroner their “nightmare” had been made worse by delays to the investigation.

Olivia Burt’s parents said it was 1,353 days since they lost the 20-year-old Durham University student “in the most horrific circumstances imaginable”.

The coroner, Oliver Longstaff, said he empathised and told them that Durham County Council was still considering whether there had been breaches of health and safety legislation.

Ms Burt, who was studying natural sciences, was crushed when a barrier collapsed outside the busy Missoula bar in February 2018.

The family have dealt with their loss and the long wait for an outcome ... with impeccable patience and dignity

Mr Longstaff held a brief hearing at Crook Civic Centre to assess progress in the case, and allowed Mr Burt to address him via a live link.

With his wife Paula beside him, Mr Burt said: “It is exactly 1,353 days since our wonderful daughter Olivia was killed outside Missoula nightclub in Durham in the most horrific circumstances imaginable.

“Every one of those 1,353 days has been a nightmare made worse by delays in the investigation.”

Mr Longstaff said the county council had asked for a further adjournment while a decision was made on whether to charge parties with health and safety breaches.

He said coroners had no power to make investigators speed up their inquiries, but he would write to the county council to pass on the Burt family’s comments.

Mr Burt agreed when the coroner said: “A thorough investigation is sometimes of more value than a swift one.”

Mr Longstaff said he would list the case for another mention hearing in January.

The coroner praised Ms Burt’s parents, saying: “The family have dealt with their loss and the long wait for an outcome of the investigations that are ongoing with impeccable patience and dignity.”

Ms Burt was a member of the British sailing team, grew up in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, and had been head girl of Bournemouth School for Girls.

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