THE FORMER landlord of a Scarborough bar was jailed for two years yesterday after his gross negligence caused the tragic death of one of his customers.
David Bell, 51, was landlord of Zest Bar in St Thomas Street when 36-year-old James Teasdale, of Mayville Avenue, fell through an unlocked door and tumbled to his death in the venue’s cellar on July 11 last year.
After the sentence, Mr Teasdale’s parents, Derek and Barbara, said they were relieved that justice had been served and also paid tribute to their son.
They said: “We all miss James greatly and his tragic but preventable death will live with us forever.
“However, we will remain strong and try to move forward after a very traumatic period for the family.
The most important thing is that James will always be in our thoughts and hearts. All the special memories we have shared will never fade.”
It is believed that Mr Teasdale, a graphic designer who had been out with friends on the night of his death, mistook the cellar door for the gents’ toilets.
The fall, down concrete steps, caused substantial head and brain injuries and multiple injuries to his body.
He remained conscious for between one and four hours in the cellar.
He crawled around in a disorientated state and attempted to pull himself up before he came to rest in a small room at the rear of the cellar.
It is most likely that he died in the early hours of July 12. He body was discovered by a member of staff on the afternoon of July 14.
Leeds Crown Court heard that the door to the cellar had been kept unlocked by Bell, despite previous incidents of members of the public falling down the stairs.
Bell was aware of these incidents but failed to report them. After an incident in Easter last year, he arranged for the cellar door to be locked for a period, but when the cellar key was lost or stolen it was left open once again.
A new lock was due to be fitted in the week following Mr Teasdale’s death. Police officers subsequently found a spare cellar key in the office of the bar which Bell said he did not know existed.
After his arrest, Bell told police that it was a major inconvenience to have the cellar door locked but that changing the lock was on the to-do list in my head.
Bell added: Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but you know I can’t turn the clock back, I wish I could.
Jailing Bell, Judge Robin Spencer said: I have read moving statements from the family. Their understandable distress and utter dismay is completely understandable.
No sentence can bring back a much beloved son, brother and uncle or bear comparison with a life lost, which was priceless.
Bell, who had no previous convictions, did not react in the dock as the sentence was passed.