A MASTER stained-glass artist who died following a fall at Durham Cathedral had been putting the final touches to a new window, an inquest was told yesterday.

Michael Lassen, 61, was helping put in the last panel of the 170ft stained-glass window when he fell 20ft from a ladder and suffered a fractured skull during a work break. A jury sitting at Newcastle ruled he died accidentally.

Witnesses described Mr Lassen’s hands slipping off the ladder and him falling backward onto the stone flag floor in the cathedral’s South Quire. The reason for his fall remains unclear.

Glass artist Tom Denny, who was commissioned to create the new Transfiguration window, told the hearing he had taken on Mr Lassen – one of the most experienced craftsmen in his field – to lead and install the window when a previous assistant became ill.

On the day of the tragedy on September 3, last year, Mr Lassen was working on scaffolding inside the cathedral, while Mr Denny worked on the outside of the building.

Mr Denny said, while “wiggling around” the last rectangular panel, he saw the chairman of the Friends, Bill Apedaile, and others inside and decided to show them the window.

He took the friends to the second level of the scaffolding, leaving Mr Lassen on the lowest level, when he heard a “clattering” noise and a woman scream.

Cathedral volunteer steward Kathleen Burdon said: “I saw his (Mr Lassen’s) hands on the ladder and in an instant they just seemed to leave the ladder.

“It all looked as if it happened in slow motion. His hands just seemed to slip off it.

“I closed my eyes because I knew it was inevitable he would fall.”

Steward Maria Atkinson, who saw him fall backward, said he had made no attempt to grab out.

The Gloucestershire artist was taken to University Hospital of North Durham, before being transferred to Newcastle General Hospital.

He died on September 8 of bronchial pneumonia brought on by his head injury.

Health and Safety Executive specialist inspector Stewart Eddie said he was satisfied with the ladder and scaffolding and no prosecutions were being considered.