AN UNQUALIFIED workman has avoided jail after causing the death of a gas engineer at a Winchester house.

Piotr Kowalczyk incorrectly fitted a ladder which led to David Wood falling and hitting his head on stone tiles.

Mr Wood's daughter told the court how relatives were hurt "beyond belief" by the loss of the 64-year-old, who was planning for retirement before the "senseless" accident.

Kowalczyk, 62, of Howard Road, Southampton, was given a six-month suspended sentence on Monday. (Dec 7) Winchester Crown Court heard on Monday how he was sent to work on a buy-to-let bungalow in Rowlings Road, Weeke, in late 2012.

He bought a ladder for the loft but failed to install a retaining bar which would have locked it to the correct angle, the court heard.

In March 2013 Mr Wood, of Peverells Wood Avenue, Chandler's Ford, was sent to look at a boiler in the attic. The ladder came off its hinges under his weight and he suffered a fatal head injury.

Mr Wood's daughter, Debbie, said: "The loss of dad has changed our lives so much, it hurts beyond belief. It being so senseless and avoidable hurts all the more.

"He worked so hard all of his life to provide well for his family, putting us at the forefront of all that he did.

"He was looking forward to beginning to slow down and within a few years looking to retire."

She added: "I miss dad, the guy in his shorts at the barbecue, the chap of few words that put his feelings into action by doing things for people."

Kowalczyk, now a janitor, has no safety qualifications and speaks little English, but the court heard testimony to his hard work from past clients.

The court heard he fitted longer screws to the ladder as a precaution but didn't fit the bar due to lack of room.

"He didn't believe that that would affect the safety of it," said Jason Taylor, mitigating.

"This is one of those tragic accidents that stems from a lack of knowledge and nothing more than that."

The family did not wish for Kowalczyk to go to prison, Mr Taylor added.

Anna Vigars, prosecuting, said: "Both the police and the Health and Safety Executive investigated what had happened and they learned that Mr Kowalczyk was sent there on direction by a property management company called FabShow to go into the bungalow and carry out a series of tasks involving routine maintenance and DIY."

Kowalczyk pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act. A similar charge was dropped in October against FabShow UK Ltd, which denied the allegation.

Judge Keith Cutler said: "If he turned up at someone's home and said 'I'm here to fit a ladder', a member of the public would expect he has qualifications, skills and abilities, when all he has is he charges £10 an hour."

Editor’s note: FabShow  UK Ltd has asked us to point out that the work of installing the ladder was referred to Mr Kowalczyk by FabShow, but he was an independent contractor and not an employee of FabShow.