Zombie actress in £100,000 fight after being ‘left scarred’ in grenade horror during show

Tristan Kirk

An actress who says she was left scarred for life after a freak accident while playing a zombie in a Halloween show is suing for £100,000.

Helena Westerman, 24, was portraying a “mad scientist and zombie” in an interactive horror performance when she claims she was hit in the mouth by a deactivated grenade thrown by another actor.

Before the accident at Mountfitchet Castle in Essex, she had been lurking in the shadows in full costume and makeup, before moving to “shuffle out of her hiding place” to terrify the audience.

She says she was hit by the grenade and it sent her crashing to the ground, fracturing five teeth, hurting her back and leaving her with permanent facial scarring.

The actress, from Hammersmith, had six months of intensive dental treatment including two root canal operations and a cap on her front tooth, Central London county court heard.

She is now suing the company which runs the castle, the Alan Goldsmith Organisation, claiming it failed to provide a safe system of work.

In papers submitted to the court the company denies negligence, insisting it had not provided the props and had nothing to do with managing the October 2015 event.

Miss Westerman — who is also a theatre writer and producer — was playing a role in the “Outbreak” zombie tour, telling the story of zombies loose in the Norman-style castle after a virus plague.

She was among blood-covered “zombies” who emerged in a smoke-filled scene. But as she stepped forward a defused grenade was thrown at the same time as a firecracker or explosive sound, her solicitor Nicola Hall said.

“On previous nights, she pretended to fall to the ground, giving the impression that the explosion had killed the zombies, and she would then get up shortly after”, she added. “However on the date of the accident, the metal grenade was thrown by an actor, but hit the claimant in the face, knocking her to the ground, and causing her to hit her head and injure her back.”

Miss Westerman’s lawyers claim the company’s staff provided props for the act, including an axe, knives and a blunted chainsaw, as well as defused metal grenades.

She says she was badly cut on her upper lip and now has “permanent and visible scarring”, and has since suffered from depression and anxiety. Lawyers for the Alan Goldsmith Organisation say she sent text messages after the incident, describing it as an “accident” and “just an incredibly unlucky event”.

The company argues it had nothing to do with supplying the weapons, and claims only rubber dummy grenades were used. The firm’s director, Jeremy Goldsmith, was at the horror show rehearsal but denies handing out props.

A preliminary hearing on the compensation claim has taken place, and a full trial will be held later