Climber tells of sentencing pal to cliff death

Malcolm Hall
Malcolm Hall

A climber fell to his death after his friend had to make the agonising decision to cut a safety rope to save himself.

Malcolm Hall, 51, had abseiled half-way down a dangerous cliff face at Kettleness as the pair searched for jet when disaster struck.

The experienced climber got into difficulties with his ropes and was left dangling precariously 180ft above the rocky shoreline.

His panic-stricken friend Joseph Faichney, an inexperienced climber, was struggling desperately to cling on.

But faced with whether to be dragged into the sea with his companion or attempt to save his own life, Mr Faichney had no option but to sever the rope.

An inquest heard Mr Hall was the ‘author of his own misfortune’ for not taking appropriate safety measures.

He had a basic abseiling qualification and took Mr Faichney, who had only abseiled before in the Scouts, climbing as a treat for his 28th birthday last July.

Before descending, Mr Hall secured a rope on three safety points – the cliff edge, a boulder that he wrapped the rope around and Mr Faichney.

But minutes after Mr Hall went over the side of 375ft Kettleness cliff, his friend felt the rope tied around his waist starting to tug. The rope loosened from the boulder and Mr Faichney was dragged perilously close to the edge of the drop as he desperately tried to hold the weight of his friend.

As the seriousness of the situation became clear, Mr Faichney began screaming for help.

In a statement read to Teesside Coroner’s Court, he said: ‘I was thinking that hopefully he will get near the bottom. I was holding it as tight as I could but it was digging into my back. I was screaming and screaming and thinking that he was going to pull me off the top. I was in sheer panic.”

After cutting his friend loose, Mr Faichney was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. He was released without charge when the Crown Prosecution Service decided he took the only reasonable course open to him by deciding to save his own life.

Assistant coroner Malcolm Donnelly told the hearing on Wednesday: “He was in an impossible situation and had to save his own life.

“He was a novice and relied on the knowledge of the more experienced man.”

Detective Sergeant Mark Proctor, who investigated the incident, said none of the anchor points used by Mr Hall was safe.

He also warned that the pair’s hunt for jet – a popular pastime in the Whitby area – was technically theft as they were on the 15,000-acre Mulgrave Estate without permission. The estate has now put up signs warning people not to search for jet.