Dad-of-two Matthew Wilmot tragically died after falling in a hole that had been left unsafe by workmen (Image: south bedsnews agency_sbna_fairleys)

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A dad-of-two's body was found "upside down" in a hole he had fallen into after it was left unsafe by workmen, a court heard.

Matthew Wilmot, 40, had been watching the FA Cup final at a pub and had spent the night drinking when he got on a taxi that dropped him off near his home.

But a hole on the footpath that had only recently been dug out by workmen for a water company had not been properly made safe, Luton Crown Court heard on Monday.

Mr Wilmot, whose partner of 24 years said her "heart has been broken" by his tragic death, fell into the hole in Devon Road, Luton, and his body was found "upside down" by a neighbour early the next morning, BedfordshireLive reports.

The water company responsible for the work has now been fined £100,000 after being found guilty earlier this year of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act by not ensuring that people not in its employment were not put as risk.

It was also ordered to pay a further £50,238 towards prosecution costs.

Luton Crown Court heard Mr Wilmot was on his way home from the pub when he fell into the 1.2m hole
(Image: south bedsnews agency_sbna_fairleys)

M&S Water Services (Utilities) Ltd, which had been contracted to carry out the work by Affinity Water, appeared at Luton Crown Court for sentencing on Monday.

Passing sentence Judge Mark Bishop said the job, which was to dig a hole to locate a stop tap, had been carried out by workers for M&S Water Services on the morning of Thursday, May 25, 2017.

After digging to a depth of around five feet, the stop tap still hadn’t been found and so the workmen reported back on phone to others supervising and were told to make the site safe and move on to another job.

The judge said making safe meant refilling the hole with some of the “spoil” so that it was not as deep as before.

Soil was put back so that the depth of the hole was 1.2 metres and there were plastic barriers put around the opening.

In addition two signs saying “Footway Closed” were in position either side of the hole.

A sentencing judge at Luton Crown Court ordered the company responsible for the work to pay £100,000
(Image: SOUTH BEDS NEWS AGENCY 01582 572222)

After watching the cup final two days later, Mr Wilmot headed home and it was shortly after 12.30am on Sunday, May 28, when a taxi dropped him off at the end of his road.

By now more than 48 hours had elapsed since the safety barriers had been put in place and they had moved.

The judge said when the workmen had left the site on the Thursday it had been decided by them that no footplate was needed to be placed over the hole, because the footpath had been closed and such a precaution represented a a “trip hazard".

At the trial the jury was told that in the early hours of that Sunday morning witnesses had seen the plastic barriers had fallen down. Mr Wilmot’s body was found at 7am that morning.

The judge said it was clear that the excavation of the hole was on a footpath which would be used by people to move objects like wheelie bins past it to a collection point. He said the site had “started to get untidy".

The judge went on: "I am satisfied the jury accepted the evidence that this site had not been left safe.

"If the hole had been filed with more soil and been covered either measure would have reduced or eliminated the risk to the public."

A victim impact statement from Tania Banks, who was Matthew’s partner of 24 years, was read out in court on Monday in which she said: “All our lives have been changed forever, our hearts have been broken and our world is a much sadder place without Matthew.”

An inquest into the death of Mr Wilmot, which was held in 2018 at Ampthill Coroner's Court, saw the coroner record his death as "accidental".