Death of man who fell into industrial shredder prompts statement from 'anguished' family after court verdicts

The death of a man who fell into an industrial shredder while at work is "as painful" now as it was five years ago, his family have said.

David Willis, 29, fell into a shredder designed for wood and commercial waste at Timmins Waste Services (TWS) in Wolverhampton in September 2018, when he tried to clear a blockage while it was still running.

TWS and yard manager Brian Timmins, who was operating the shredder at the time, were found guilty of corporate manslaughter and manslaughter respectively at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Wednesday.

After the verdicts, Mr Willis's family released a statement through West Midlands Police, saying: "David's death is as painful for us now as it was five years ago.

"David has missed out on so many treasured family moments, including the birth of his niece and the growing up of his nephew, who still treats David as his superhero in the sky."

Mr Willis's body has never been found, and the court was told the machine's contents were taken to a landfill site in Cannock, Staffordshire.

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Jim Colclough, who led the investigation, said: "We found major, systemic failings across TWS which meant workers were put at risk.

"Risk assessments were not done, and safe methods of working were simply not put in place.

More West Mids stories - click above
More West Mids stories - click above

"Timmins' failure to lock off the shredder, and his decision to put Mr Willis in a position of danger, directly caused this tragedy.

"We spent many weeks searching the site at Cannock, but only found part of a tabard which may have belonged to David.

"The fact that we could not recover David has added to the anguish caused to his family, and denied them the chance to say goodbye to him with dignity."

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Recycled waste 'must' have included Willis's remains

A trial was told Timmins was operating the shredder when it stopped "abruptly".

After investigating the machine he used a digger to lift Mr Willis on top and inside to see what the problem was, jurors were told.

Prosecutor Christine Agnew KC said CCTV evidence showed the machine was still operational at the time but should have been turned off.

When Mr Willis disappeared into the machine, Timmins was seen on CCTV looking around the yard and inside the shredder's 'hopper', which guides waste towards the machine's blades, before calling Mr Willis's phone.

He was then seen looking out of the yard gates and running around the site, before returning to the digger and continuing to operate the shredder.

The next day, Timmins and other employees who were working that day loaded and disposed of 80 tonnes of recycled waste by taking it to a landfill site in Cannock, Staffordshire, which Ms Agnew said "must" have included Mr Willis's remains.