Inquest delayed further as HSE considers criminal charges against Waltham Council over man’s death in nature reserve in 2015

The Health and Safety Executive is considering criminal charges after a man was killed by a falling tree in a Walthamstow nature reserve.

Lukasz Costazza, 30, died seven years ago on June 9, 2015 in Low Hall Nature Reserve, which is owned by Waltham Forest Council.

A pre-inquest review yesterday heard the reserve contained “crumbling” trees that had not been felled to “increase biodiversity”.

While assistant coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said she was keen to “push on” with a jury inquest by the end of this year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is still deciding whether or not to pursue criminal charges.

Were HSE to bring charges, the inquest would likely be delayed further until the conclusion of legal proceedings.

HSE investigator Charles Linfoot said: “The overall COVID situation and sadly my personal health has delayed matters, but we are nearly ready to put the report through to the legal services division before I [retire].”

Referring to a statement from Waltham Forest Council, assistant coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: “It seems to me there are quite a lot of questions about tree management and allowing trees to remain, even though they are crumbling, to increase biodiversity.

“And to recognise that this area was used for ‘nefarious purposes’, which is not a word I’ve heard a lot.”

Dr Radcliffe added that arboriculturalist contractor Gristwood and Toms will also be considered an interested person, meaning their participation may be required during the inquest.

When contacted for comment, an HSE spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with the police on the investigation into this incident, with HSE taking the lead in 2019.”

A spokesperson for Waltham Forest declined to comment on how long its investigation into the death took.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed there was no direct third party involvement in Lukasz Costazza’s death in a statement issued on July 27.

A Met spokesperson said his body was discovered on June 9 in Low Hall Wood Nature Reserve after being called by the London Ambulance Service.

They added: “:Officers from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command established that there was no suggestion or evidence of any physical third party criminal involvement.

“The Met then carried out a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the circumstances of Mr Costazza’s death.

“The police investigation resulted in no further action being taken following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service. The HSE took over the investigation in 2019.

“As we await the inquest into Mr. Costazza’s death we are unable to comment further until this process has been completed.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter