Essex couple die after car enthusiast modifies vents in bid to improve performance

A young couple found dead in a ‘souped up’ car died after breathing in poisonous fumes from the air vents when a vehicle modification went wrong, an inquest has found.

Nikki Willis, 23, was found in a blue Ford Fiesta in Chelmsford alongside her car enthusiast boyfriend Tom Putt, 20, in December last year.

An inquest today heard that car fanatic Tom, an engineering apprentice, had carried out a series of alterations to the Ford Fiesta to improve its performance.

He had removed the catalytic converter from the exhaust and cut vents into the bonnet.

Tragically, a gap between the exhaust and the engine meant fatal fumes were sucked into the car via its fresh air intakes, the inquest heard.

Police initially cordoned off the area suspecting a ‘chemical incident’ after a potentially noxious substance was detected – but later declared it safe.

The car was found outside the home CeX shop worker Nikki shared with her mum Michelle Hindson, 46, and stepfather Stuart Hindson, 45, back in December.

Today coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray described their deaths as a “tragic, tragic accident”.

The hearing at Chelmsford, Essex, was told tests later revealed carbon monoxide levels inside the car had been 1,000 times greater than the safety limit.

Detective Robert Kirby, who investigated the tragedy, said: “A unique set of events came together to allow this tragic incident to happen.

“A gap in the exhaust system where the exhaust meets the engine allowed fumes to escape.

“Compounded by the fact the car had had its catalytic converter removed (which normally dissipates harmful emissions).

“Vents underneath the windscreen wipers then in-took the emissions from the gaps in the bonnet.”

Residents told how they had heard the engine of Tom’s car running at around 4.30am on Monday, Dec 5.

The alarm was raised at 10.30am.

Remember to be careful and safe when modifying your car and to always seek professional guidance.

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