His parents spent two years compiling a mountain of evidence which they say proves their son was killed by hydrogen cyanide gas seeping into their home from contaminated floodwater coming from a former landfill site near the house in Chertsey, Surrey.
The Mail on Sunday has previously revealed that at the time of Zane’s death, firefighters recorded ‘very high’ levels of the toxic gas in the house. Zane’s father Kye was also overcome and left paralysed, which doctors say was caused by cyanide gas.
But police and the Environment Agency have repeatedly ruled out the family’s claims, and spent months insisting that carbon monoxide from a faulty pump hired to clear out the floodwater was to blame.
Kye and Nicole Gbangbola want to present their case at a coroner’s inquest, due to start in June. But they now face having to represent themselves after the Legal Aid Agency turned down their request for help. Meanwhile, the Environment Agency, Spelthorne Borough Council and the local NHS trust have all hired barristers at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to fight the case. The company that owns the former landfill site will also have a barrister.
Nicole, 38, said: ‘How are we supposed to argue against five barristers who have 160 years of legal experience between them?
‘It will be hard enough just to turn up to the hearings each day, let alone represent ourselves. We are not lawyers, we are not barristers, we are just normal people.’
The family’s plight was backed last night by Sharon Wood, the mother of children Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who were poisoned to death by a faulty gas boiler on a Thomas Cook holiday to Corfu in 2006.
Mrs Wood said: ‘My heart goes out to the Gbangbolas. They have my deepest sympathy because we know how it feels to kiss your child goodnight unaware it will be for the last time. All legal proceedings should take place on a level playing field.
‘A grieving, broken family without the answers they need are simply not in a position to represent themselves in court.’
The Legal Aid Agency – a Ministry of Justice quango – said the family’s application for ‘exceptional case funding’ had been declined because it did not meet its public-interest tests. This is despite 30,000 people signing a petition calling for a public inquiry into Zane’s death.
MPs last night blasted the decision, which comes after the Government overhauled the legal aid system following controversy over claims for millions of pounds by illegal immigrants and terrorists.
Shadow Justice Minister Lord Bach said: ‘The Ministry of Justice should make sure this case is urgently reviewed because Zane’s parents deserve access to justice.’ Bob Neill, chairman of the Commons Justice Select Committee, added: ‘It is clear there is a public-safety issue at the centre of this tragic case and this decision ought to be looked at again.’
Mr Gbangbola, 50, said: ‘All we want is to end this nightmare we are having to endure.
‘I believe the powers that be don’t want the truth. They just want to silence us.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Inquests are specifically designed so people without legal knowledge can easily participate and understand what is happening. The coroner can put questions on behalf of the family.’
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