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Tributes are paid to Islington ski pair killed in Alps avalanche

Inquest is told how ‘highly respected’ lawyers were ‘crushed’ after going off-piste on holiday

02 August, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Katherine Clarke, who was a New Zealander by birth, lived in Barnsbury

FAMILY and friends have paid tributes to two Islington lawyers who were “crushed” to death by an avalanche while on a skiing holiday.

An inquest into the deaths of experienced skiers Katherine Clarke and Matthew Ziegler in the Italian Alps was held at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.

The pair were “swept away” after they went off-piste skiing by themselves while on holiday with ­colleagues from Barclays Bank in February.

Mr Ziegler’s wife Victoria and Ms Clarke’s husband Jim Clarke-Sullivan attended the inquest and heard how their partners had been in “good spirits” on the last day of a holiday at the Canale degli Spagnoli Val Veny resort.

Richard Tallett, a colleague, said: “Both were excellent lawyers and highly respected. I considered Matt to be a valued mentor and I also considered both to be good friends.”

He had worked with Mr Ziegler, who was his line manager for six years, for more than a decade.

Ms Clarke, a New Zealander by birth living in Hemingford Road, Barnsbury, joined the London office in 2015.

Mr Tallett had decided not to ski on the day of the avalanche and left them at the lifts.

A rescue helicopter was sent out later that day when the pair did not turn up for the shuttle to their return flight to the UK.

Matthew Ziegler was ‘swept away’ after going off-piste while on holiday with ­colleagues from Barclays Bank in February

Colleagues contacted Barclays and requested that they track the pair’s work phones which showed up coordinates on the mountain.

The avalanche risk ­level was rated four, out of a scale of five, on February 2. It was reported that 80cm of snow had fallen the night before and there were “strong gusts” of wind.

But the risk level had been reduced to a three on the morning of February 3 when Mr Tallett last saw Mr Ziegler and Ms Clarke.

The next day they were found at the bottom of a snow mass beneath three metres of layered “compact and heavy snow which had crushed them”, the court heard.

Members of both families were keen to stress at the inquest that Mr Clarke and Ms Ziegler had been on a marked “itinerary” off-piste run.

Coroner Mary Hassell returned an accidental death verdict for both deaths saying they were “crushed by an avalanche while skiing on a marked ski run”.

In a statement released by Mr Clarke-Sullivan he described his wife as an “amazing mother who loved our daughter, Isla, very deeply and was completely devoted to her”.

He added: “I have so many stories to tell Isla about her mum, who was always brave, always calm, bright and happy. Katherine had an adventurous spirit which found its home in the mountains. She was a very experienced backcountry skier and climber, tackling mountains all over the world, including becoming the first New Zealand woman to have climbed and skied the three highest peaks in Greenland.”

Mr Ziegler’s family said in a statement: “Matt was very much loved by all of us, his friends and his colleagues. We want to say thank you to everyone who has sent their condolences and offered their help. This is obviously an extremely sad and difficult time for us, so we thank you for respecting our need for privacy so we can try and deal with our loss.”

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