A farmer has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a young volunteer who was killed after her hair and clothing were snared in an unguarded piece of machinery.
Neil Carpenter was told by a judge at Exeter Crown Court that a jail sentence is inevitable after he was convicted of causing the horrific death of 20-year-old Lauren Scott.
She died from multiple injuries after she was dragged into a drive shaft being used to power a 130-year-old Victorian milling machine from a tractor engine.
The shaft, known as a power take off or PTO, should have been protected by a plastic safety cover which cost just £75 to buy.
The final third of Carpenter’s PTO had no cover at all and the plastic on the rest of the shaft was cracked and broken.
Lauren, who loved animals and worked full time at Powderham Castle’s Secret Garden, died on March 4 last year while working without pay on Carpenter’s 55 acre smallholding at Springfield Farm, Dawlish.
She was trying to mill grain to feed the pigs, sheep and cattle when her hair or clothes were caught by the shaft and she suffered fatal multiple injuries. She was stripped of most of her clothing and one Wellington boot by the force of the accident.
Carpenter claimed she was using the machine without his permission but a video she shot on her phone 28 minutes before she died showed him getting on the tractor and starting the engine which powered the PTO.
Lauren’s mother Nicola went into the witness box to make a heartbreaking victim impact statement after the verdict.
She sobbed as she said:"It is almost impossible to find words to explain the devastating impact which Lauren’s death has had on myself, her father and our other six children. Our family’s life will never be the same.
"When Lauren died, a little bit of me died with her. I was and always will be privileged to be her mother. I mourn for the horrendous loss of our beautiful, amazing, and intelligent Lauren.
"She did not deserve this. She has been cheated of her wonderful life. She was just 20 and starting her journey into adulthood. She was sheer goodness, through and through and her life would have been wonderful.
"This was an awful death that could so easily have been avoided. It is only right someone has been held responsible."
Carpenter, aged 45, of Firbank Road, Dawlish, denied but was convicted of manslaughter. He admitted two counts under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Judge Mr Justice Dingemans will sentence him tomorrow morning under guidelines which suggest an immediate sentence of at least three years.
He bailed Carpenter but said:"He must understand that a prison sentence is inevitable."
The jury reached their verdicts after examining the PTO and comparing it to a properly guarded one in which the moving drive shaft was hidden completely by the plastic casing.
Carpenter denied being anywhere near the scene of the accident and claimed Lauren had repaired the broken milling machine without his knowledge, attached it to the faulty PTO, and milled half a bag of corn without him noticing.
Lauren had recently completed a two year course in equine husbandry at Bicton College, near Budleigh Salterton, and was working with animals at Powderham Castle’s Secret Garden.
She also had a weekend job at a stables and was a volunteer horse catcher at Newton Abbot racecourse.