Co-ordinated effort to alert ‘every family in Leeds’ to dangers of derelict sites after boy’s death

Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, at the scene on Wyther Lane.
Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, at the scene on Wyther Lane.

A co-ordinated effort to contact “every family in Leeds” to warn them over the dangers of using derelict sites as play areas is underway ahead of the summer holidays after a 14-year-old boy fell through a roof to his death.

Dr Mark Peel, the independent chairman of Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said that messages, letters and verbal advice had been given to youngsters and parents across various platforms after Myles Johnstone died in an accident at Wyther Lane last Thursday.

The Leeds West Academy pupil, who was from Bramley, was pronounced dead at the scene despite the efforts of police, medics and an air ambulance response.

It is understood that he was out playing with friends when he fell.

And in the previous few weeks, two other Leeds boys, aged 12 and 13, were hurt in falls at derelict buildings in the city.

Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, last week described derelict buildings as “death traps”.

Dr Peel today said that a campaign had got underway to reach as many people as quickly as possible to put children off exploring abandoned sites.

He said: “Myles Johnstone fell through a roof of a factory premises and was tragically killed.

“To the best of our knowledge he was playing. We know that children are drawn to disused factory complexes and we are also aware that he isn’t the only child in the recent past who has been seriously injured – in his case tragically lost his life – as a result of playing in areas that presents a particular risk to children.

“With the schools about to break up, rather than taking out time to come up with [a slick campaign] we thought the best thing to do would be to communicate with as many people as quickly as possible.

“We felt time was of the essence.”

He said that Leeds City Council’s director of Children’s Services, Steve Walker, was writing to parents and that police had put out advice. Dr Peel added that he was in contact with Child Friendly Leeds, and young people would be spoken to directly.

Parents at schools have received messages notifying them that their child will be spoken to in form time or during an assemblies this week about the dangers of exploring derelict sites, which asked guardians to reiterate the message.

As well as alerts being cascaded through schools under the responsibility of the council, Dr Peel said that others would be contacted too.

“We are really trying to contact every family in Leeds just to make them aware,” said Dr Peel.

He added: “As well as exploring abandoned buildings and building sites, summer is also a time when some young people are tempted to enter open water, like lakes or reservoirs without taking the right precautions or thinking about their own safety.

“The summer holidays should be a time for fun and relaxation but it is also a time when some young people are tempted to try out risky activities – especially if boredom kicks in. Therefore working with our partner organisations, including Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police, the Safeguarding Board is using all available means to send out a ‘stay safe this summer’ message.

“We want to remind young people to think very carefully about the dangers involved in playing around abandoned buildings and building sites especially, and to consider the consequences their actions could have on own their lives and the lives of their friends and families. We are also encouraging children and young people to look out for their friends’ safety too and for parents to reinforce these messages to their children.”