Articles Tagged ‘victims - Brake the road safety charity’

A mother's story

Aaron was killed while crossing a road outside his school. The driver was doing an estimated speed of between 42 and 54 mph in a 30mph limit.

The following is an account sent to Brake by Aaron's mother. In the covering letter, she apologised for the length of the account, stating, 'once I started writing I couldn't stop.' It conveys very well the extreme emotions experienced by a bereaved family (particularly a parent who loses a child), including feelings of disbelief, powerlessness, anger, loneliness and an overwhelming sense of loss.

"15th June 1999, the day that every mother's nightmare became my reality. My only son Aaron Peter Samuel Turner, who was 12 years and nine days old, was killed when he crossed a road during his lunch break from school. Aaron's death was not his fault. It was caused by a young lad driving his car at high speed, so that he would look cool in front of the other youngsters who were around at the time.

Aaron was born on 6th June 1987, and from the start he was a real live wire. He was the opposite of my daughter Joanna in every way. He slept all day and was awake most of the night! As time went on I knew that he would grow to be a very bright child. So many things come to mind, but a few particular things are as follows. When he was two I was woken really early by noises coming from his bedroom and when I went in I found that he had dismantled his cot completely and it was like a 'flat pack' on the floor. On another occasion I took him to the doctors and he was crawling on the floor underneath the desk. When I picked him up, he had taken quite a few of the screws out of the doctor's chair. These kinds of things still bring a smile to my face. Once, when Aaron and Joanna were in the bath together Aaron said, 'Jo, you have got a moustache.' So of course Jo shaved it off.

Aaron had some difficulties with his speech as he was learning to talk and for years he called my dad 'Afwah'. We never did find out where that came from. When Aaron was nearly four, his father and I separated, so there was just myself, Joanne and Aaron. Aaron and Jo spent every Sunday with their dad, right up until the Sunday before Aaron was killed.

As Aaron grew older, so his talents started to show. He was one of those children who could turn his hand to anything. It never seemed to enter his head that there was anything he couldn't do. He went through a phase when he was always standing on his head and I can remember saying 'If I see him upside down one more time I'm going to scream.' He just seemed to be able to do anything. He could always run faster and jump higher and further than anyone else. On Aaron's last sports day at school he won everything, and each event he was in I could hear his name being shouted by the rest of the children. He was brilliant. This led to Aaron being chosen to represent the North East Lincolnshire schools in an inter-county competition in Dewsbury near Leeds. He still holds the record for throwing the javelin.

Aaron had a particular talent with his hands. He could make things out of paper, cardboard boxes, anything he could lay his hands on, and it was all from his own imagination. I've got some of his drawings, which are fantastic by any means. Joanna used to get some really good marks for her artwork at school because she would get Aaron to do her homework for her (of course it would have to be at the right price).

In 1997 Joanna and Aaron went on holiday to Spain with my mum and dad. When I saw the video my dad had taken I was amazed. Although I knew that Aaron could swim, I never realised how well and how brilliant he was at diving. I didn't even know that he could! Once again it was something that came so naturally to him. My mum once bought Aaron a T-shirt with the words 'no fear' written on the front, and that was Aaron. He had no fear; failure at anything didn't occur to him.

We come from a very close and loving family. Even though we live 200 miles apart (my mum, dad and two sisters live in Essex), we have always had frequent visits, either at their houses or mine. Every single Christmas has been spent together all our lives. Joanna, Aaron and their cousins always did a little play or performed some magic to entertain us on Christmas morning. I remember one year when Aaron was quite small he 'disappeared' from the magic box and as we were clapping my brother-in-law said, 'Would you like some chocolate Aaron?' Of course Aaron jumped up like a shot, much to the annoyance of his cousins and Joanna. It was so funny!

Once Aaron and his friend decided to abseil down a big tree at the end of our street. While Aaron was on the way down, with the rope tied around his waist, his friend had to go in for his tea. The rope got tangled on a branch and Aaron was left hanging from the tree for an hour before his friend came back and cut him down. He was so mad when he came home, but the way he described it just made me laugh.

For six years after my divorce there was just me, Jo and Aaron, until in 1998 I met Martin. Right from the start Martin and my children got on great. We took them out for days and one night we took them ten-pin bowling. You can guess who scored the most points. Aaron had us in stitches because he was 'moonwalking' along the floor in between his turns. After we had been together a few months Martin said that he would give Jo and Aaron £5 a week pocket money if they had been good. When Aaron got his first £5 he went straight to the local gift shop and bought me a pair of earrings. I just thought that was so lovely of him.

In September 1998 Aaron started at secondary school. The results of his SATS tests meant that he was in the top set of the top band. I was so proud of him! He became great mates with several boys- Carl, Scott, Nicky, Mark and Danny. Danny had lost his dad, John, in an accident at work in late 1997 and he used to talk to Aaron about how he felt. We became good friends with Danny's mum and his sister Claire. Aaron had known Scott and Nicky since they started nursery school when they were three, and all our families had become quite close. The boys used to go everywhere together - camping in each other's gardens, roller-blading at the local skate-park, riding on their bikes. They never could get enough of each other. It was all we could do to get them in each night.

In October 1998 Martin and I decided that we wanted to stay together, so we found a house on a new estate that was being built. Danny had moved earlier on in the year to the same place so Aaron was really chuffed. The pair of them had timed how long it would take to get from one house to the other. Aaron said that if he walked at normal pace it would take seventeen seconds. We planned to move in during the summer of 1999.

At this time I had started work at Morrisons, working Tuesday to Friday in the afternoons. Jo and Aaron caught the school bus home together and waited until I got home at 5 o'clock. They would then have their tea and then go out with their friends, often to the local youth club.

Christmas came and went with the usual family get-together. It was especially nice for us because we were like a family again.

On April 4th 1999 (Easter Sunday), tragedy struck. Danny's sister Claire was killed in a car crash. She was 15 years old. The 19 year old driver of the car was driving along a country lane at night doing a speed of 85mph. Claire didn't stand a chance. When the driver lost control the car turned over and she was thrown through the windscreen. Claire died from her injuries three hours later. We couldn't believe it. It just didn't seem possible that this could happen just 18 months after John had died. The driver is now serving two and a half years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving.

Danny and Aaron became even closer during the next few weeks and spent a lot of time sleeping at each other's houses because Danny became afraid of being upstairs on his own. I think that in his own way, Aaron brought a lot of comfort to Danny.

On Sunday 6th June 1999 Aaron turned 12. He had asked for money for his birthday instead of presents because he wanted to buy some parts for his bike and some clothes and trainers that he had seen in town. During the previous couple of weeks he'd been building himself another bike from parts he had bought with his pocket money. I never thought that it would be more than a heap of scrap!

By the following Saturday, he was ready to put the finishing touches to it. We went to town and he got spray paint, tyres, a really snazzy brake cable and some bright red handle bar grips. Then we got the trainers he wanted and various other bits and pieces. We had a really good day together.

Aaron's dad had by now had two more daughters and both Aaron and Jo thought the world of them. Chloe was five and Melissa was six months. On Sunday 13th June, Jo and Aaron were made godparents to Melissa.

On Tuesday 15th June 1999, Aaron left for school as usual with Joanna. As he went out of the door he said to me, 'Later Mum!' These were the last words he ever spoke to me. Martin and I had been busy getting things together for our new home. During that morning we went to look at some furniture we were having made. After that Martin asked if I would like to go and buy an engagement ring. I was thrilled; I couldn't wait to tell Jo and Aaron the news. We had already talked about getting married and Jo and Aaron were all for it. Joanna couldn't wait to be our bridesmaid but Aaron being Aaron asked if we minded if he was an usher instead of a pageboy because he didn't fancy wearing a suit and would rather go in his tracky bottoms and trainers. We used to wind him up by saying how nice he would look in a bow tie.

Martin and I both left for work at lunchtime. Before I left the house I wrote a note for the kids asking them to do their homework before tea so that they could go to the youth club later. I left a P.S. on the bottom saying that Martin and I had got engaged. I knew that they would both be really happy for us. I couldn't remember feeling so happy for years. It was a beautiful day, the hottest day of the year so far, and I felt that at long last the future was looking great for us.

I had been at work for seven minutes when I was called to the personnel office. My first thought was 'Oh God, what have I done wrong?' Joan said that my son had had an accident and had been taken to hospital. I felt my whole body start to shake and I seemed to sense that it was going to be serious, even though I didn't know any details at the time. I phoned Martin and told him to meet me at the hospital. The ride to hospital seemed to take forever, although it was only ten minutes away. Every traffic light was on red and I kept telling Joan what had happened to Claire. She tried to reassure me that it would probably be a broken bone and that Aaron would be alright.

I ran through the Accident and Emergency doors, but we didn't know which way to go. Although there were people around I felt like I was alone. I found a lady sitting at a desk using a computer while talking to a patient so I stood waiting to speak to her. Suddenly a nurse (Helen) ran to the desk and said, 'I need a consent form for an emergency blood transfusion for an unknown child.' I knew immediately that this was Aaron. I told her I thought it was my son. Helen asked me what he was wearing and if he had an earring in his left ear. This confirmed that the child they had was Aaron.

I was taken into the relatives' room opposite the resuscitation theatre. Helen told me that Aaron had been knocked down by a car and that he was 'very poorly'. I asked her if he would be alright but she just kept saying that he was 'very poorly' and that they were doing everything they could for him.

By this time it was five to two and Martin must have arrived at some time because I can remember him sitting next to me, holding me. Helen asked if I would like to phone Aaron's dad, but I said no, I would phone him later. She kept pushing me to phone him so I asked her if Aaron was going to die. She said that she didn't know but that everything that could be done for him was being done. I phoned Les's girlfriend and she said that she would pick him up from work and would be with us in an hour. I rang my mum and dad and asked them to come. I can remember crying, hardly able to speak, as I said, 'They don't know if Aaron's going to make it.' I knew it would take my parents about four hours to make the journey.

Helen kept popping out to see us, but the answer was always the same- 'Aaron's very poorly.' My hopes were raised at one point when we were told that the helicopter had arrived and was ready to take Aaron to another hospital, where they were better equipped to deal with head injuries.

In my head I just kept saying to myself 'Please God, don't let Aaron die. Don't take him away from me. He's only twelve. He hasn't lived yet.'

The headmaster from Jo and Aaron's school came to the hospital to ask what I wanted to do with Jo. I wasn't sure what to do for the best, but in the end I asked him to take her to my Auntie's house where I knew she would be well looked after.

At 3.30pm a doctor came in and sat down. I couldn't look at him I was so frightened of what he might say. 'Aaron had a nasty cut on his head.' The doctor got no further than that. I knew because he used the word HAD instead of HAS. I threw myself onto Martin screaming and crying, shouting at him, 'Please don't let this happen, please Martin please!'

We both cried for a long time in each other's arms. During the next hour, people kept arriving- my closest friends, my cousin, and at last Aaron's dad. I chose to tell them myself that Aaron hadn't made it. Those were the words I used because I couldn't bring myself to say that Aaron was dead. Everyone was devastated. It was unbelievable. We all sat together in the small room crying our hearts out.

At around 5 o'clock Helen asked if we would like to see Aaron. I was terrified. I was scared that he wouldn't look like Aaron because of his injuries but Helen reassured me that there were no marks on him and that he just looked like he was asleep. Obviously the police needed to see him for identification.

This was the worst moment of my life. I'll never forget seeing Aaron, lying on the bed, completely lifeless. He looked the same as he did every night when he was asleep in his bed. I put my arms around him and I kissed him and told him that I loved him and that I would never stop loving him. I couldn't believe that this was the end. The pain I felt was unbearable. I think it was at this point that I wanted to die too. I wanted to be with Aaron so that he wouldn't be alone. When you die you're supposed to meet up with your loved ones, but we were all still here, so who was Aaron going to be with? Who was going to look after him and take care of him?

I needed to see Joanna and have her with me so my cousin went to pick her up. Someone had already broken the news to her and when she arrived she looked terrible. She was so pale, her face tearstained and she looked like a small child again. She sat on my knee and we cried together and cuddled.

I knew that my mum and dad would be well on their way by now, not knowing that it was all over. My dad told me later that all the way there he was trying to work things out in his mind. Dad had always been our 'Mr Fix-it'. Whatever went wrong in our lives he could mend it and he would help us in any way he could. But he couldn't mend this and whatever he did he couldn't make Aaron any better. I remember the moment they walked through the door; Dad came first and then Mum. I put my arms around my dad and cried as I said 'It's too late. Aaron didn't make it.' Mum almost fell to the floor and I had to hold her up and sit her in a chair. Dad walked to the window with tears streaming down his face. I had never seen my dad cry before. Mum said, 'Oh why couldn't it have been me?' She would have given her life for Aaron.

We stayed at the hospital until 9 o'clock. I don't think any of us wanted to go home without Aaron. In the end we had to. The first thing I did when I walked in the door was to throw away the letter I had left for Jo and Aaron. Then I sat with my mum and cried for a long time.

At midnight my two sisters arrived. My elder sister knelt down beside me and was crying as she said 'I don't want to be here doing this.' My younger sister couldn't say a word; all she could do was cry. We did eventually go to bed that night but by six the next morning we were all up again. I think the shock must have set in because I felt like I wasn't there and that what had happened must have been a dream. It wasn't. The phone rang non-stop and people called round showing how much they cared. The cards that we received were overwhelming. By the end of the week there was nowhere left to put them all.

Of course we had to arrange Aaron's funeral. How do you decide which coffin you want for your child? Where you want the service to be held? And where you want to bury him? I didn't want to do any of these things. I wanted my son back but I couldn't have him. Someone had taken his life. I went to the place where Aaron had been killed. His school friends and people who I didn't even know had placed flowers, teddy bears and letters on the roadside. One letter stuck in my mind from a girl in Aaron's class. It said:

'You're too damn cool for anyone
No time to eat or sleep
You swan around just being you
The coolest ever dude.'

I place a red rose with the message 'For Aaron, forever in my heart. "LATER" Love Mum'.

I went to see Aaron every day in the chapel of rest and it broke my heart. He was so peaceful, so beautiful and seemed to just be asleep. At home he had often pretended to be asleep and after I had struggled to carry him up the stairs, he would open his eyes and say 'Not really!' I willed him to wake up; I begged him to stop messing about. But he never did.

As the days got closer to the funeral his friends went to see him. They had some photos of themselves taken on their bikes and they placed them with Aaron along with letters and the can of coke that he was going for when he was knocked down. We put family photographs in with him and I gave him the red handle bar grips he had bought three days before. Aaron was a great fan of Southpark so his Dad pinned a small badge of 'Kenny' onto the collar of his T-shirt. Aaron was dressed in his favourite clothes and his new trainers. In his hands he was holding a red carnation, which was so not Aaron. He would have said, 'I'm not holding that; it's gay.' I replaced it with a ten pound note which was left from his birthday money and said, 'Spend that when you get to heaven.' On Tuesday 22nd June I said my final goodbye.

I buried my son on Wednesday 23rd June 1999. At Aaron's funeral we were in pieces. As we walked in all I could hear was people sobbing. The church was full to overflowing. People had to stand outside because there was no more room. Aaron was carried in to the music of Celine Dion singing 'My Heart Will Go On', the theme from Titanic. I had decided to only have one hymn, The Lord of the Dance, as I felt that the words fitted Aaron's personality- 'I'll lead you all, wherever you may be, I'll lead you all in the dance said he.' I chose a song from South Park called 'Chocolate Salty Balls'. The vicar said it would probably be the first and last time it would ever be heard in church. It certainly brought a smile to a few faces.

Aaron's cousin had written a poem to read out but in the end they couldn't do it. I don't know how my dad managed to do it but he read the poem out as follows:

At Christmas time and family events
The family gathers and presents are sent
On these occasions we saw him often
The times we spent will not be forgotten.
When he was there, trouble was never far
His plots and schemes never fell under par
He was one of a kind, no one can replace
Remember the 'hard stare' upon his face
He was strong with his fists and strong with his mind
These contrasting qualities are hard to find
He was called Aaron, he was known far and wide
He was our cousin- our love will not die.

The police had been popping round to our house during that week and we discovered that Aaron's death was no 'accident'. I found out that I knew the driver of the car that killed Aaron. I had known his family for years. Their daughter and Joanna had been at school together since they were five years old. The lad who killed Aaron was 18, one of the local youths who drives around the estate at high speeds.

Ever since he'd had a licence he'd been a menace- first on his moped, and then in his car. On numerous occasions people have knocked on his door asking his parents to have words with him, but all to no avail. On the morning of 15th June he had taken his car in for repairs and had been given a courtesy car, which he was driving when he killed Aaron. There were over 40 witnesses to the incident, including Danny, Carl, Nicky, Scott and Mark, who were with Aaron when it happened. Danny lay with Aaron on the road until the ambulance arrived. Aaron died at the scene. A nurse from one of the local houses tried to resuscitate him and did manage to get a faint pulse, but his injuries were too bad for him to survive. I have since been told that Aaron had head injuries, a broken neck, and massive internal injuries.

The police gathered their evidence and at the beginning of July they arrested and charged the driver with causing death by dangerous driving. Apparently he had been driving up and down the road at great speed, windows open, sunglasses on, music blasting out, the usual boy racer stuff. He says he never saw Aaron because he was waving out of the window at the time.

The speed he was doing was estimated to be between 42 and 54mph. The reason there is no exact speed is because he never braked at all, just carried on driving. Consequently there are no skid marks to be measured. The speed limit on that road is 30mph. The road was in perfect condition with no bumps or potholes. It was a perfect day and completely dry. There is no excuse for what happened. It was simply down to the speed and the manner of driving. Aaron wouldn't have crossed if a car had been coming. Witnesses say that the car just came out of nowhere because of the speed it was doing.

There seems to be no remorse from this lad for what he has done. His life carries on as normal. In fact, the day after he killed Aaron he went and picked up his car and was driving around as usual. The police had to go round and tell him to show some respect. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and we are currently waiting for a trial date to be set. Whatever the outcome of the trial nothing will change for us. We've still lost Aaron. Life for us is now very different and always will be. We miss Aaron so much and every day is just another battle to get through. I moved to the new house, but it means nothing now. Everything was ruined on that day.

Christmas 1999 was terrible. To see so much hurt and pain on everyone's faces was unbearable. As we sat down for lunch we lit a candle for Aaron and we gave a toast to him as we held him in our thoughts.

I miss Aaron so much. He had so much to live for. There were so many things he could have done with his life. I often sit and wonder who he would have married and what his children would have been like. Now we'll never know. It's not only us who have been denied, it's Aaron too. He's been denied of his life. I try to look back and remember all the things that he said and did and how much he made us all laugh.

I often said to my mum, 'I don't want memories, I just want Aaron.' I look for Aaron everywhere- in the street, at school and in the town. I even open his bedroom door hoping to see him in his bed. I know I'm never going to see him, but I can't help looking. I write a little bit of poetry now and again. This is the first poem I wrote for Aaron:

No one can ever take from me
The twelve years that we shared
No one can ever take from me
The love, and knowing how much we cared
No one can ever take from me
The pain, now you're missing from my life
No one can ever take from me
The heartache, that cuts like a knife
No one can ever tell me
Given time, pain will heal
No one can ever tell me
Life's a gamble, you take the card that God deals
No one can ever replace you
You're my son and that will always be
No one can ever replace you, Aaron
For now, forever, for always
For all eternity.

When are people going to realise that a car is a lethal weapon and that a licence is like holding a licence to kill?

We are a shattered and broken family left to pick up the pieces."

A personal account by Nova Storey

On 9th November 2004 our 18 year old son, Dominic, died following a car crash in which he was a back seat passenger. The driver of the car was subsequently convicted of causing Dominic's death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to two and a half years in a young offenders' institution.

The car crash took place at 21:50 on 8th November 2004. Dom had gone out with a friend who he had not seen for seven years and who he had met by chance the previous week. I was away from home, in Merseyside, as my dad had died three weeks previously and my mum and I had gone back to their house to sort out her affairs. At twenty minutes past midnight the telephone rang. I can't explain this now but I immediately knew something terrible had happened. It was my husband ringing to tell me that Dominic was in hospital in Coventry and that the sister in charge there had advised that I get to the hospital as soon as possible. Police officers from the local force were there with my husband and escorted the ambulance that transferred Dom to the Intensive Care Unit at another hospital. All we knew at this stage was that Dominic had been in a car crash and was seriously injured.

The police force, in my parent's hometown, sent a police driver to take me to the hospital, whilst another police officer went to my brother's house to arrange for him to come and stay with my mum. At the time I was just reacting like a robot and accepted that this was all happening. The officer who drove me down to Coventry talked throughout the whole journey and I remember thinking at one stage, 'Just shut up and let me think about what is happening.' I now realise that this kept me calm and carried me through those few hours. When we got to the junction before our exit junction on the M6 we had to come off the motorway, as a Father's for Justice campaigner was threatening to throw himself off the motorway bridge. I wonder if he will ever know how close he came to stopping me getting to the hospital before Dom died?

We finally arrived at about 04:30 just as Dom arrived in the ambulance from the first hospital. I couldn't imagine what had taken them so long but he was so severely injured that they had had to be very careful with him and he had struggled to keep breathing. How can I ever adequately thank the police officers who got me to the hospital? Without their support I know I would not have been with Dom to hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him. It enabled me to be with him when he died. I truly believe that he hung on for me, that he knew that I was there and, in my darkest moments, this gives me much consolation.

We were taken to the relatives' room on the ICU and I could hear this erratic beeping and lots of activity. I knew it was Dom. I remember going to the ladies room and, looking in the mirror, realised that I had been crying constantly since I'd arrived. We had several medical personnel come in to talk to us. A neurosurgeon explained that he wanted to put a pin or something into Dom's brain as it had twisted on the stem, another surgeon talked about his lungs, people were in and out but it seemed like we were waiting forever. Eventually the Head of the ICU came in and sat down beside us. I asked him what Dom's long term future held and he just said, 'Mrs Storey, we are fighting to stop Dominic from dying rather than fighting to keep him alive.' He had a strange look on his face that I thought was annoyance at my stupidity. In fact it was sheer frustration that despite all their efforts they couldn't save Dom.

At 05:30 we were able to sit with Dom and, for me, this was the first time I had seen him since the crash. He looked beautiful and so young, because his face was swollen and it gave him that chubby look that toddlers have.

Whilst we were with Dominic, police officers had collected my twelve year old daughter and our friends, who were looking after her, and were bringing her to the hospital. Dom started to fail again and the decision was made to remove the artificial aids that were keeping him alive. He died at 06:30 before our daughter arrived. I will never, as long as I live, forget the look on her face when I told her Dom had died.

In amongst all of this I remember being really aware that I was facing the greatest challenge of my life - to carry on knowing Dom had died.

We arrived home at 10:30 and began the awful process of letting our families know what had happened. It still makes me cry remembering my oldest brother breaking down on the phone when he heard my voice. Our friends stayed with us until late afternoon and my husband fell sleep on the sofa through sheer exhaustion. My broken heart nearly gave up completely when I came into the room to find my lovely, young daughter covering him up with a blanket like she was his mother.

The only information we had at this time was that Dom had been thrown out of the car and was, eventually, found in a field. Throughout that first night this absolutely haunted me. Was he conscious and frightened? Was he crying for us? Was he in pain with no one to help him? I worried that his spirit wouldn't be able to find us so my husband suggested lighting a candle like sailors' families used to do when they were at sea. We did this and, three years later, we have lit a candle every night for him at home.

The next day the Senior Investigating Officer from Traffic came to see us. He clarified all the factual details, went through the further work that they would be carrying out and explained that we had been assigned a Family Liaison Officer. He gave us the Brake Bereavement Guide which was invaluable to me. I don't have a clear memory of the visit, as shock was the only thing keeping us standing. However, we learnt that Tom, the driver of the car, had lost control of the car whilst overtaking another car just before a blind bend, had hit a tree stump, and overturned, at which point Dominic was thrown out of the car. We also found out that Dom had in fact landed on the road, a local resident was with him within minutes, an off-duty police officer had administered first aid and was also with him until the paramedics arrived and that he had been unconscious throughout. It may sound strange but the sense of peace this gave me was huge as I now knew that Dom wasn't alone and afraid and in pain. To know that someone was with him, talking to him and looking after him, cradling his head and holding his hand was of the utmost comfort to me.

We visited the scene of the crash that evening and were greeted by flowers and poems, letters, candles and cards. The following days were filled with a combination of shock, absolute sorrow and love. The outpouring of grief and support from everyone who knew Dom was staggering. Perhaps the saddest thing of all about his death is that, apart from the odd bad day, Dominic loved and enjoyed life so very much. He was cheerful, always smiling and he took enjoyment from the simplest of things. Dom had obviously captured the hearts of so many and touched the lives of more people than we had ever imagined. His funeral and the cards and letters we received at that time, and subsequently, bear testament to this. Flowers and letters were sent from shops and businesses in our town, from his old secondary school along with many letters from teachers and pupils alike, from his old primary schools, one of which he left aged 7. All reinforced the message that despite his devilment he was a lovely boy who would never be forgotten.

We were appointed a Family Liaison Officer who helped us enormously during that first two weeks. She listened to us, was honest and compassionate in her dealings with us and quietly directed us to do and think about things that we would not have been able to cope with or considered ourselves. As a result we visited the crash scene and she walked us through events and explained everything that she could, we planted daffodil bulbs at the point alongside where Dom was found, and she liaised with and gave us the contact details of the off-duty policeman and the local resident who were with Dom at the scene.

Another significant area that the FLO supported us in was in relation to the media. I would have spoken to every newspaper and journalist I could have but I am so glad that I was advised to wait and let the police interact with them. Given the little information we had at the time about the cause of the crash I would have given a view that I would have later regretted as I just had not considered the fact that the driver was to blame.

After the first few weeks contact with the FLO and the police became less as the driver was recovering from his injuries and was not fit for interview. However, we were steadily introduced to the fact that the driver was the cause of the crash and thereby responsible for killing Dominic. By the time it was determined that he would be charged and a prosecution would take place we were resigned that a court case would take place.

During this time we struggled to find our way in a world that seemed so alien without Dominic in it, and we were constantly having to re-evaluate how to take our place as individuals and how to be a family unit without him. We were a solid, devoted and happy family and there was absolute love between us. Dom was a vital quarter within our whole and we couldn't fill that gap or compensate for his loss. His 19th birthday on 11th December and that first Christmas were particularly harrowing and we still find family occasions really hard without him.

Dom was a delightful and sociable character who very rarely chose to spend time in his room, preferring instead to be in our company when he was at home, and who was never happier than when having a lively discussion or exchanging repartee with family and friends. He loved people whatever their age, background or beliefs and he accepted everyone on face value, never forming a judgement until he had had the chance to get to know them. This wasn't always a good quality because it sometimes led to disappointment for Dom, but it was one of the traits that made him the sensitive and caring individual that he was. He didn't have a bad bone in his body. He was naive in the ways of the world, although he thought he knew it all, but he had grown into a unique and charismatic young man who was ready to make his way in the world.

Dom was especially happy at the time of his death as he had finally found his focus. He was about to embark on a career in the Royal Navy as a marine engineering mechanic and it was a pleasure to share his sense of excitement and nervous anticipation at the road that lay ahead. We were impressed at the dedication and motivation Dom showed whilst following the selection programme and we grieve deeply for the life that would have been his, for the experiences he will miss, mistakes, regrets and failures included. Dom didn't deserve to have his life taken from him, having fought against severe illness as a baby until aged 10 when he suddenly grew stronger and more robust. Highly skilled surgeons and medical staff fought very hard to save his life in those early years and it seems such a terrible waste that he was not able to take full advantage of the gift that he was given. He was affected by this earlier condition throughout his life but we never heard him complain and we don't believe he even thought himself disadvantaged. Certainly he didn't expect any special treatment and he embraced life with open arms.

In the February following his death I was standing in my local newsagents when the front page of the local newspaper caught my eye. With disbelief I read an article detailing the driver's first appearance in court having been charged with causing Dominic's death by dangerous driving. I was just devastated that the FLO hadn't informed us. As far as I am concerned we were standing for Dominic as he couldn't do so for himself and I felt completely let down and distressed that we had not been given the opportunity to attend the first court appearance.

At about this time also we asked to see the car. We were offered video footage and photographs but there was a real reluctance from the police for us to see the actual car. For some reason this became something of an issue but we persevered and eventually our request was granted. Our FLO and the Inspector supported us during our visit to the garage and I can't express enough the benefit we gained from this. It enabled us to understand how Dom was thrown from the car and clarified many of the facts we had been told. I also began to appreciate just how badly the driver had been driving.

We then entered into the court process and attended four court sessions over six months culminating in the sentence in the July. I can only say that we were completely looked after and supported throughout this process by the FLO and the team. We chose to make our own way to court but they were always there waiting for us, helping us to understand what was happening, forming a secure barrier between us and the outside world, and facilitating our way through, what was for me, an intensely traumatic experience. I cannot imagine what it would have been like without their support.

I found it particularly upsetting when the driver initially pleaded 'Not Guilty' - to me it was a complete betrayal of my son and seemed to demonstrate a lack of remorse and denial of any responsibility. The fact that I had always believed that he cared for Dom and was shattered by what had happened had made it easier for me to carry on. I was also terrified that we would have to go to trial as I really didn't think I would survive it. The police gave me strength and forbearance at a time when I was in no state to deal with any additional stress and, sure enough, the plea was subsequently changed to guilty.

The driver was sentenced in July 2005 and there followed a very difficult period. It seemed like everyone had returned to their normal, everyday lives, whilst we were struggling with complete and overwhelming sorrow. Perhaps the most difficult aspect to bear was the intensity with which we missed him every second of every minute of every day. We wondered how we could live the rest of our lives without him, how we could get through so many days and years with him gone from us. We mourned for him as he was when he was a baby, a toddler and at every stage of his short life. It was as if those earlier stages of his life had been taken from us also and whilst we cherished the memories of him and the experiences we shared with him, we were, and are, broken hearted that we will never see him again in this world. We miss buying Baby Bel cheese and having to pick the pieces up from around the house, him eating all the bacon crisps, him filling the house with the smell of Lynx deodorant, him calling "Shall I put the Smelly on?" for the television, him peering anxiously through the front room window at an ungodly hour because he'd forgotten his keys, him laughing unreservedly at some silly remark, him giving the thumbs up when we went to pick him up from work. We still miss everything about him and him just being there.

Three years on and we are much stronger and more able to cope. At a time when we were crippled by shock and brought to our knees by grief, we were supported by some very special individuals. They would probably say they were just doing their jobs. To us it was much more than that and those individuals will always have a place in our hearts.

Our hearts are still filled with sorrow at the premature and needless death of a lovely, thoughtful, fun-loving rogue who cared deeply about his family and friends. Our lives and the world we live in will never be the same. Dominic had his life snatched from him. He will never again sit in the sun having a drink with his friends, never experience regret and joy, never realise his career ambitions, never experience the happiness of finding his soul mate, never look down into the face of his new-born child and marvel at the wonder of it all. He can never spend another second with a family who love him so much that they would give everything they had just to have him back for one day.

We are exceptionally proud of Dominic and we love him so very, very much. We are thankful that we had the privilege of having him as our son for he was a truly special boy. The day that he died our world became a darker place and the sun will never shine as brightly for us again."

Author: Nova Storey
Edited by: Mary Williams

Date Written: January 2008

A personal account by Pam Surman

The following is an account written by Pam Surman, mother of Nicholas 'Jeff' Parish, killed aged 37 when a lorry crashed into his motorbike. She talks about her wishes to donate her son's organs and her upset about not being allowed to do this. She explains how important the Brake bereavement folder was and the usefulness of this guidance. She talks about the helpful role that her FLO played and how frustrated she became during the court proceedings.

"At about 6.30am on Saturday the 12th February 2000 we were visited by Ripon police, who told us that our only son, Nicholas, had been killed.

The collision, between Nicholas on his motorcycle and a lorry, occurred at a road junction in Sunray Avenue, London. The accident happened at 1.55am and Nicholas died of multiple injuries in Kings College Hospital at 2.30am. The driver of the lorry was unhurt.

Nicholas was 37 years old, unmarried, but left a son who was then 13 years old. He was a very fit man, an enthusiastic snowboarder and had some twenty years experience as a motorcyclist. He owned his own Software Company, travelled extensively and had returned from South America just before Christmas.

The officer who broke the news to us was very quiet & caring. This quiet composure gave us strength.

I was aware that Nicholas carried a donor card. In the past we had discussed this, and he had made it very clear to me what I should do if anything should happen. However, I was told that if there is a pending post-mortem a Donor Card becomes invalid. This surprised and saddened me, as I knew how strongly he felt over this matter. I have subsequently learned that this was probably incorrect information - regardless of the presence or not of a donor card, it may have been possible to donate parts of Nicholas's body, such as tissue or bone, with our permission as we were the next of kin. I feel deeply saddened that the police misinformed me. I also feel a sense of failure that I was unable to respect my son's last wishes.

On the Monday we had what we can only describe as our "day in hell". We had to travel to London to identify our son. The Coroners Clerk was too busy to see us at Kings College Hospital so after finding an undertaker & making the necessary arrangements we travelled to Southwark Coroners office. He seemed indifferent to our situation and we feel that this attitude added to our grief. From the Coroners Office we went to Peckham police station, where we were met by the sight of our son's motorcycle clothes, boots and helmet piled on the floor outside an interview room. I think around this time we were on the verge of collapse and longing for home

A week after Nicholas's death, whilst in our local shopping area, I was handed a Brake leaflet. After reading this at home I rang Brake, who kindly sent me their bereavement folder, which gives all information on how to proceed at this time. This, may I state, was the only help we had at this time. Through information from Brake I was also able to contact a local solicitor, who dealt in fatal crashes. This folder was very clear and immensely helpful.

The date for the inquest was constantly deferred. Various excuses were given but to us anxiety and frustration was the order of the day. After a few months we were contacted by the Metropolitan Police. They then came to see us regarding their findings, and also showed us photographs of the crash. They had decided the case should go to the CPS, but in their opinion we should not be too hopeful because of a lack of witnesses etc. The CPS decided not to proceed further. At this time we were then given a Police Liaison Officer, who may I add was a most caring, understanding intelligent man. He kept in touch often by telephone, and in spite of his very heavy work load, did take us to the crash scene, not as I imagined a busy London street, but a quiet tree lined avenue, so different from my thoughts.

We had to wait 12 months for the inquest, with a verdict of accidental death recorded. We are at present in the process of bringing a claim against the other driver, based on the evidence at the inquest.

We are aware the purpose of the Coroners Court is to define the cause of death. The Lorry driver showed no remorse, but what does seem very wrong is that he walks away without a blemish on his record. Surely there is something wrong here. Where is the justice in all this?

The whole family is still utterly devastated by the loss of Nicholas, a charismatic figure who we all loved dearly. His son has suffered deep clinical depression, but we are now pleased to say is surfacing slightly. I myself saw a counsellor twice, which did help a little.

What does surprise me is the attitude towards a "Road Death". It is a daily occurrence, and an accepted part of life.

Until it happens to you or yours, only then are you truly aware of the agonising pain and grief, which goes on and on. This family will never fully recover."

Author: Pam Surman
Edited by: Mary Williams

Date written: 2002
Date updated: August 2007

Adam - the apple of my eye

AdamAdam was killed in March 2007 aged 18

His mother Tracy writes

I lost my teenage son to an horrific car crash in March. I hope my heartfelt poems help others in my position to cope with their grief.

The first written quite soon after the event and the second, more recently.

My Adam

I walked away that morning, without a backward glance,

I didn’t know that moment was going to be our last.

The last time I would hold you or see your lovely face,

The last time I would kiss you and feel your strong embrace.

So solid and so real,so vibrant and alive,

A happy face with twinkling eyes, my fine young man, my child.

My first-born son, my Adam, the apple of my eye,

so cruelly taken from me, I never said goodbye.

The shattered remnant of my heart is strangely beating still,

with holes so black and fathomless no light could ever fill.

I don’t know how I face each day without my darling boy.

Gone is all the happiness, the love of life, the joy.

The years stretch on before me, so bleak and dark and long,

I pray you walk beside me, son, and help to keep me strong.

And when my life is over, come to me on that day,

and smile at me and hold me tight and carry me away.

the wind that whispers through the trees, the brightest star at night,

a rainbow on a dismal day, a shaft of golden light,

All these are signs you send to me, a message from above,

that even death can’t break the bonds of Son and Mother Love…

You Walk Beside me Every Day

The days are long without you here, I’ve sat and cried a thousand tears,

that cruel fate did my life destroy and take away my lovely boy.

But you can wipe my tears away, you walk beside me every day.

The looming years that, more or less, just fill me with unhappiness,

are speckled with some happy times, when rainbows brighten up the skies.

I know you’re never far away, you walk beside me every day.

There will be anniversaries and celebrations that you’ll miss,

Oh, Adam, how we’ll miss you then, your booming laugh, your cheeky grin.

But you’ll be there, you’ll find a way, you walk beside us every day.

Sometimes I dream that I’ll awake and find it’s all a big mistake,

That you are here, you’re safe and well! with hugs and smiles and tales to tell!

And in my mind I hear you say, “I walk beside you, every day.”

The road ahead is hard and steep, with hills to climb and furrows deep,

and life will never be as good as when you, here beside us, stood.

But we believe that here you stay, you walk beside us every day.

At night you gently touch my cheek and memories are mine to keep,

of my sweet son, so deeply missed, since that first day your head I kissed.

Inside my heart forever stay and walk beside every day.

Andrew - so much to live for

AndrewIn Memory of Andrew John Kennedy (03/11/1981 - 29/08/2009) my childhood sweetheart by Kim Kennedy.

Andrew was tragically killed on 29th August 2009 at the age of 27 years old when he was innocently walking alongside a road in Tadcaster following a day at Leeds Festival.

Andrew was a much loved husband, son, brother and friend to so many people. He was extremely intelligent, gifted, funny and hardworking. He touched the lives of so many people and he was such a special and caring person. Andrew always put others before himself and he was the least selfish person anybody could ever meet.

Andrew was extremely intelligent and hardworking. He had a first class honours degree in History from York University. He was constantly studying for one course or another and he was due to start another MA in Business and Recruitment shortly after his death. Andrew once joked that his future plan in life was to be “the most over qualified person there could be”. Even in Andrew’s short life I am sure that he could not have been far from achieving that goal.

Andrew’s death has been a massive shock to us all, and I cannot put into words how it feels at 27 years old to have my childhood sweetheart, husband, soul mate and best friend taken from me. Although I know that my heart is broken and it feels that my purpose in life has vanished.

Andrew had so much to live for and also to look forward to, including our planned future together. Andrew also had so much more in life to offer, and he has been snatched away from us all.

Nobody could ever have wished for a better husband, son or brother. My life will never be the same without him, and although he has died, I know that he is watching down on me. I will always love Andrew and despite our loss he will never be forgotten and I have so many memories from the most amazing 13 years that we spent together.

Andrew Potter - I will love you forever

Andrew PotterDear Andrew

I have never felt pain like I did on that Friday evening, 21st November 2008, when I found out that you had been knocked off your motorbike whilst riding home from work, and had been killed.

My world stopped at that moment and I had to see you. I went to the hospital and you just looked like you were asleep, I expected you to sit up and tell me you were okay, but you didn't.

For the first couple of days after the accident I was just numb, I couldnt stop crying and kept hoping I would wake up from this horrible nightmare and find you lying next to me in bed. You would then give me a kiss and a cuddle and reassure me that it was just a bad dream. Unfortunately that was not to be.

For the next couple of weeks I survived on adrenaline alone, waking early and staying up until late, sorting out paperwork and keeping myself constantly busy.

In the week of the funeral I seemed to find some kind of inner peace which gave me the strength to get through that day. Hundreds of people turned up at your funeral - you didn't realise you were so popular did you! I received so many sympathy cards, everyone loved you Andrew and you were described on so many cards as “a true gentleman”, “a family man who adored your wife and kids”, “larger than life” and “the life and soul of the party”. That just about sums you up really but I would describe you as simply “the best person in the whole of the world”.

I feel you around me all of the time and am sure that you are looking after me and the kids. If I am unsure of what to do in a certain situation, the answer just pops into my head as if you put it there. I think you are also giving me some of your personality and I am a better person because of it.

We had the best marriage ever, 6 years of pure bliss. We had some fantastic holidays in our caravan, we had some fun parties and barbecues, we really lived life for the moment and for that I am eternally grateful. We were soulmates, best friends and everyone who met us could see the depth of our love for each other. We were really lucky to have what we had together, even though it was short lived, and even now, knowing the bitter ending, I would still want to do it again - to experience that special love that we had, or rather have, because we still love each other just as much now as when you were alive.

Our 2 beautiful children are a credit to you, they both have your confident and outgoing nature and are really clever, just like you. Daniel is the image of you and every time I look at him I see you smiling out of that gorgeous face. Eva has your eyes, the exact shade of blue as yours, and the same way of looking at you as if she can see right into your soul.

I miss you sweetheart, every second of every day and would give anything in this world just to see you and hold you one more time. Please keep looking after us and give me the strength to be the best mum ever to our children.

Love you forever sweetheart

Mandy

Andy McLean – Missed So Much

Andy McLeanIt was around six thirty on a sunny 11th September 2010 night, when the police came to my business to break the tragic news they had to tell me.  My 22 year old son Andy Mclean had been on his way home from the farmers market where he worked every week when a French driver on the wrong side of the road ploughed into his Vauxhall Nova killing him instantly.  I could not believe what they were telling me and told them over and over again there must have been some mistake but they assured me they were 99% convinced it was Andy.

They then asked me to come with them to make a formal identification of my boy, as ,being his dad, I was next of kin.  The 30 min drive to the police mortuary seemed an eternity; so many things to do; so much I had to hold myself together for; how could I break this news to his mother; partner and his beloved Gran?  I had to know and be sure it was him before I did anything.   All too soon we had arrived and I was an emotional wreck. I was shown in to the viewing room and it was undoubtedly my oldest son Andy. I wept uncontrollably as the police let me have just a few minutes with him - separated by a pane of glass.

My mind thought back his 22 years over that few minutes we spent together; his birth; bathing him; putting him to bed; watching him grow from a baby to a boy to a man. The pain and grief I felt in trying to tell the family what had happened devoured me and I could no longer hold back my hurt, anger, disbelief and when the tears came they didn’t stop.

Andy was at the happiest time of his life when he was taken from us.  He was an apprentice mechanic working with a great boss and friend.  He was recently engaged, had his own place ,and was out doing what he loved most... driving his Nova.  I didn’t realise until the days in the run up to his funeral, just what a popular lad he was.  The 58 sympathy cards on the table, the endless visits from people, calls, emails from New Zealand; texts and so it went on. I prayed to God that my son had not suffered and questioned him over and over again why he had to take a Andy from us.  Answers I will never ever get.

The funeral, I don’t remember too much about.  I stared at his lovely coffin throughout the service, my mind playing his life over to me like a video; the flowers; the 300 people that attended; and finally laying him to rest in the cemetery.

I thought of my fortunate 44 years and how my son would never be married, have kids or enjoy life as I had and I was so angry at God for not taking me and give Andy his young life, as I would have gladly have died to save him.

I watched my family ripped apart; their pain; their sorrow and I was powerless to do anything to help them cope. I lost myself in alcohol for days on end, I didn’t wash, shave or some days even dress.  My way of coping I told myself, and the whiskey in my glass agreed,  My only function in the morning ,to light my fire and find the bottle.   The days spent alone I spent crying, unable to answer the biggest question on my mind, WHY???!!!

I had to go to the place of the crash.  I stood and looked at the beautiful scenery at the spot my son left this earth. I stood out on the road and looked in both directions... clear visibility both ways.   How could this have happened?  As I looked I saw an oncoming car approach me from the same direction in which Andy had been travelling from; suddenly it disappeared from sight and a few seconds later appeared again.  The police had told me there was a hidden dip in the road and when Andy was in the dip, he could not have seen the oncoming car until both cars met on the crest of the hill.  Then it was too late.  But Andy had seen it and had steered for the verge on the left, but as the French driver was on the wrong side of the road, he also steered for the left... straight into Andy. 

The questions came again, if only he had a puncture; if only he was late in getting away from the market; if only his car wouldn’t start and he had to borrow my jeep; would it have been different?

It’s now nearly 3 months since my beloved son was killed and we still think of him every day.  We still cry most days and the pain will never go away.

Anwen Busby - An Amazing Friend

Anwen was an amazing friend. She died in a car crash along with Jai Burkes in Ponterwyd, Aberystwth.   Three other passengers were also injured.

I will never forget her cheeky laugh and her gorgeous face.

Sleep tight my beautiful friend, keep shining and i'll see you again one day.

xxxx

Brake Family Liaison Officer Awards 2019

FLO Award logo 2019

Brake Family Liaison Officer Awards

Brake is pleased to confirm that its Family Liaison Officer Awardswill return in 2019, and are now open for entry.

The awards celebrate and recognise the outstanding achievements and support provided by Police Family Liaison Officers, and showcase best practice in supporting families following a road death or serious injury.

Following a judging process, an awards ceremony will take place in summer 2019.

Three categories will be open for nominations in 2019:

  • Outstanding Officer Achievement Award

This award is open for peer entries from Police staff, and we are encouraging nominations from all 43 forces in England and Wales. This award seeks to recognise significant, ongoing contribution to victims’ families from an FLO.

Outstanding Officer Achievement Award entry form
Outstanding Officer Achievement Award guidance notes

  • Family Award

This prize is open for families who were supported by a Police Family Liaison Officer. We would encourage anyone who would like to share their experiences of support from a Police Family Liaison Officer to nominate their FLO for this award.

Family Award entry form
Family Award guidance notes

  • Award for Excellent Longstanding Service

This award, newly introduced in 2019, aims to recognise outstanding commitment and dedication to family liaison.

Award for Excellent Longstanding Service entry form
Award for Excellent Longstanding Service guidance notes

Nominations for these awards are open from 8 November 2018. The deadline for entries is 15 March 2019.

If you would like any further information or guidance about entering the award, please email floaward@brake.org.uk.

The award winners will be invited to present their case studies at Brake's annual 'Police family liaison following road death and serious injury' Conference, which will be held in the West Midlands in October 2019. 

Details of the winners of the 2018 Awards can be found on our website here.

Brake releases new version of acclaimed support pack for bereaved road crash victims

14 February 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

The charity Brake has released an updated version of its acclaimed support pack for families left devastated by a death on the road in England and Wales. With funding from the Ministry of Justice, the pack has been updated so it's in line with the government's new Victims' Code, which aims to ensure bereaved crime victims get the right support and are treated with respect by criminal justice agencies.

Brake is the national provider of government-funded support literature for families who lose a loved one our roads. Its support packs are handed to bereaved families by police following every UK road death (with separate packs available following road deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Brake works with every police force throughout the year to ensure the packs are presented promptly and empathetically following all road deaths, as written into police protocols.

The 2013-14 packs are now being distributed to police forces throughout England and Wales.

An online version of the pack is available at www.brake.org.uk/support, and Brake's helpline (0845 603 8570) offers over-the-phone explanation of information in the packs alongside a range of other professionally-delivered support.

The revised Victims' Code, published in December 2013, recognises bereaved road crime victims as victims of serious crime with particular needs, who should be referred to appropriate support. The change has been welcomed by Brake, having long campaigned through its forgotten victims campaign for greater recognition and help from government for families who suffer the horror of a bereavement or serious injury in a crash.

Brake's support pack, 'Information and advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in England and Wales', is a comprehensive resource offering clear, objective information that supports people through one of the most traumatic times imaginable. It is regularly reviewed in consultation with experts, practitioners and victims' feedback.

Having has a loved one suddenly and violently killed, many people will not know where to turn. Brake's pack offers emotional comfort and practical information on matters such as arranging a funeral, the police investigation and criminal proceedings.

Louise Macrae, support service manager, said: "Brake's bereavement packs are a key part of the vital support we provide. For many, in an isolated, bewildering situation, being presented the pack is a signal that they are not alone, that someone cares, and that specialist support is available. It is often referred in feedback from families as a life-line they can turn to again and again. It is often essential in helping a family through horrendous pain and complex procedures, to find hope for the future and a 'new normal'.

"We recently welcomed improvements in the government's Victims' Code, which makes clear all bereaved crime victims have acute support needs and are entitled to appropriate support. We look forward to continuing to build on our excellent relationship with police to ensure all devastated crash victims get the help they need. We encourage FLOs and other support professionals to familiarise themselves with our updated packs, so they can aid families in accessing the specialist information and support available."

Robin Turner, family liaison officer, Cleveland Police Roads Policing Unit, said: "Brake's bereavement pack is invaluable to family liaison officers. Although we are trained to offer advice to families, we cannot be there 24/7. We have confidence that when a family has questions at 3:00am, Brake's literature gives them the guidance that's needed, when it's needed.

"As police officers, we are given guidelines that bereavement packs are issued and explained after every road death. I didn't realise how important this was until I spoke to families in such tragic circumstances. It is only then you appreciate how important the Brake packs are and how much they are relied on. It is not uncommon for the pack to become a permanent fixture on a bedside table. One family described it as 'their bible' after a road death."

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

 

Christine Moore - please don't judge

Christine MoorePlease Don’t Judge

Please don’t judge me or say a bad name
There’s something unique about my brain
It suddenly shifted one night long ago
My head struck the window, a very hard blow

This crash was so fast like the blink of an eye
I ask the lord why? Why didn’t I die?
To understand this is a grand mystery
Something so awful had happened to me

I remember the headlights spinning around
In a matter of seconds there wasn’t a sound
I may get confused and get lost time to time
One person decided to commit a crime

My memory is fading more each day
If only remembering could be the old way
Behavior’s dramatic and often extreme
I pray to wake up in a nightmare or dream

One person decided to drink first then drive
Again & again. “Be happy you’re ALIVE”
I cannot fix whatever took place
My memory is pleading, please don’t erase

Acquiring an injury to the right of my brain
Some days a huge emotional drain
I don’t wish for pity or sympathy please
I’m gently pleading with delicate ease

Please don’t criticize or say I’m a lost cause
What I need from you is to stop and to pause
Just think for a moment how one’s life would be
A life with acquired brain injury

One last request to get this poem over
No matter what happens,
ALWAYS DRIVE SOBER!!

Thank you,
Christine Moore
from Canada

Christopher Price Jones - our rock

Christopher Price JonesIn Memory of Christopher Price Jones 18-12-50 to 22-2-08

Killed by a lorry driver, whilst travelling to work on his motorcycle, Abergavenny, South Wales. Age 58.**

Our father, our loving, caring, devoted and determined father, we will miss you as long as we live for the rest of our lives, no words can describe how much we are all missing you.God gave you a gift of life, which you then brought us into this world and gave us three children and gift for life, you made us become who we are now, and all our achievements we have done, we miss your warm heart, hands and a warm cuddle, your laughter and a smile on your face.

I Rachelle (daughter) will remember when I use to come down from North Wales and as soon as I use to walk through the door, dad would say and have a big chuckle “peace has ended”, I also remember the times when we use to go for a long walk, dad would always be 10 metres ahead, I use to say to him “where’s the fire” (as in “to slow down”).

The dedication shows that our father was a family man, hoping to enjoy the rest of his life with his wife and family and see the world, motorcycling touring like Ewan MacGregor, but bless his soul, he never got to enjoy it.

Dad you are our Guardian Angel, for Darlene (wife) Emma, Rachelle, Neil, your are our hearts delight, like a bright start you will always shine on us.

Christopher Price Jones

Christopher White - our heart aches

Christopher WhiteChristopher was killed in August 2007 aged 29 in a motorcycle crash.

Our hearts are sore, our eyes are red
The tears still come when we go to bed
We close our eyes to see your face
But you’re not here, you’re in another place
Your life was short but full of pleasure
Our memories we will always treasure
You’re a son, an uncle, a boyfriend, a brother
Your life was cut short like many others
God sent down to take you away
But you’re in our hearts everyday
In our lives there’s an empty space
A gap that no one can ever replace
God bless Goodnight Christopher xx
Until we meet again.xx

The following poem is for Christopher, with lots of love from Mum, Dad, Brothers, Sisters, Nieces and Nephews

Our heart aches
Our eyes they cry
We always ask the question why
Our son and brother
He was loving and was so kind
He’s always on our minds
The days are long
The nights are dark
He is forever in our hearts
We miss his smile
His handsome face
Our beautiful son and brother
We can never replace.
Fate hit our lives
They will never be the same again
We want him here with us to stay
There are no words that we can say
To help to take the pain away.

Consultation response - victims code of practice

Consultation response from Brake, the national road safety charity, to:

Victims’ Code of Practice (Criminal Justice System consultation)

May 05

This consultation response has been prepared by Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of Brake, the national road safety charity. All queries, please contact Brake on 01484 559909 or brake@brake.org.uk

It is divided into the following sections, the first three of which set the scene from the perspective of BrakeCare:

  1. Introduction

  2. A need to redefine the term victim

  3. The arguments for the status quo and why they are untenable

  4. Brake’s responses to this consultation

1. Introduction

Brake is a national road safety charity with a division, called BrakeCare, which provides national support services for road crash victims. Brake welcomes the opportunity it has been given to respond to this consultation.

BrakeCare would like to take this opportunity to welcome the consultation and the code generally, and its motivation to improve services of victims. However, to limit the length of this response to a reasonable length, the comments made below by Brake are generally relating to elements of the code which need improving or correcting in our opinion. To fully explain our response, it has also been necessary to have a relatively expansive introductory section, which is divided into three parts as described above.

When Brake was founded a decade ago it was quickly recognised that there was a service delivery ‘gap’ that needed to be filled to meet the emotional and practical needs of some of the most vulnerable and traumatised victims in society ? that is, people bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. The sudden, dramatically violent, death or permanent disabling of a loved one in a road crash, often a child or young adult, is highly traumatising and results in major consequences when the victim is not cared for ? including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and an exclusion of access to practical and procedural help and information about issues such as criminal investigations, civil claims, even organ donation and other immediate concerns.

An old political decision to fund ‘victim support’ services through the Home Office, rather than the Department of Health or some other Government Department concerned with public welfare, meant that ‘victims’ who have suffered comparatively little (for example, they have been a victim of non-violent theft) are entitled to receive Government-funded support through the Home Office-funded charity Victim Support, but ‘victims’ who have been bereaved or seriously injured by road crashes are wittingly *excluded from this service. *

This is because the Home Office, and CJS, is concerned with victims of crime only and as some deaths and injuries on roads do not involve a crime, they are extremely unfairly and inappropriately in Brake’s view - excluded from this service.

Brake is one of just 39 organisations being consulted on this code. This is a positive sign, indicating the Home Office is increasingly concerned to address the exclusion of road crash victim support. The below two sections explain further the extent of this exclusion, and bring clarity to the responses then made further down this document by Brake to this current consultation.

2. A need to redefine the term victim

‘Victim’ needs a new definition by Government as a whole that is not solely linked to crime, but is linked to the gravity of effect on the individual of a violent act. It is clearly wrong that the current definition of victim, related to the committing of a crime identified and prosecutable in law, excludes some of the people who are most clearly most victimised in our society.

In Brake’s view the context of victimisation should primarily relate to violent acts against the person, regardless of the committing of a crime. Violent acts against the person would include death and serious injury and mental harm. The rationale for this redefinition is that it is the *violence and the outcome of that violence being death or serious injury or mental harm *that is most pertinent to the effect on a human being, be it a grieving mother who has lost their 12 year old son in a train disaster, or a father whose 21 year old son has been killed in a factory ‘accident’, or a mother whose daughter has been shot dead in a drive-by shooting. While, without a doubt, the criminality of the last example will have a particular psychological effect on the grieving family and requires particular expertise in its support, so do the causes of the first two examples, whether their causes are defined by law as criminal or not is irrelevant to the need to provide support and the fact they are all ‘victims’ and, in most cases, a human being was to blame.

*In support of this new definition, is the Home Office’s own definition used in the draft Code of Practice for Victims of Crime of a ‘vulnerable victim’ as someone who ‘is the family spokesman of a person who’s died’. *It is clear from this that the Home Office does understand the effect of violent death on those left behind.

This new definition as proposed above obviously mean that the victims of homicide, manslaughter, rape, violent burglary, etc, which are currently eligible for Victim Support services, would remain eligible. But it would also mean that other victims, who have been equally devastated by violent death and serious injury, would be eligible for Government-funded emotional and practical support as well, whether provided by Victim Support or some more specific agency of relevance such as BrakeCare..

These other victims would include victims of road deaths and serious injuries, and deaths and serious injuries in other ‘major disasters’ such as train and other transport disasters, terrorism, industrial disasters and, rightly, natural disasters such as the Tsunami. It would also be appropriate to include victims of suicide, which is a very violent and often unexpected death, albeit the act is committed by the primary victim themselves.

Medical deaths would not be included ? these are often sudden but cannot in fairness be described as violent acts against the person.

The biggest group of deaths under this new definition of violent deaths, in terms of their regularity and overall number, is road deaths and serious injuries. There are five times as many road deaths as homicides and far more deaths on roads than in other transport or natural disasters.

Yet, ironically, when people are killed in large groups in a violent manner (for example, in the Tsunami, 9/11, or aviation or rail disasters, there are ‘disaster responses’ by local authorities and often central government departments, meaning counselling centres are set up, often contracted to the Red Cross and other agencies. So, while road deaths make up the largest group of violent acts against the person, because they occur in ones and twos, and because they don’t always, *but often, constitute a crime, they are *ignored and unfunded by central and local government while nearly all other types of violent act ? from crime to train crashes ? do receive centrally funded support.

This quote from a mother who called BrakeCare’s helpline summarises the current situation:

*”My husband and two children were wiped out by a drunk driver. I wasn’t offered any support worker or counselling. I was so alone. I went to my GP as I thought I might end it all. He didn’t seem to know what else to do other than prescribe drugs so I could at least sleep. I became so addicted and unable to cope that I had to give up my job and now I have nothing. No family, no job, no life. How ironic that I was burgled six months after my family were killed and the police officer put me in touch with ‘Victim Support’. Now which do you think was more upsetting ? losing my jewellery or my family being killed? I am extremely angry and the system is crazy. Whoever makes these rules doesn’t know what it is like to have your family wiped out, doesn’t know what it is like to know your son was decapitated in the crash. It is offensive that victims of non-violent burglary qualify for support and I didn’t.” *

3. The arguments for the status quo and why they are untenable

There are two possible arguments for maintaining the status quo of excluding road deaths and serious injuries, and other violent acts against the person, from central government-funded support.

Argument 1: The government has a service delivery responsibility to support victims of crime, as, for this particular set of victims, it has failed in its duty of care to protect these people from crime through policing, which it funds and organises.

Clearly, the Government also has a responsibility to ensure roads, trains, planes, factories are safely run, and has legislative and enforcement arrangements to achieve this. Also, regardless of whether a crime has been committed or not, there is a strong economic and health argument for providing comprehensive support to victims of violence, not just victims of crime. A victim of violent death, serious injury or mental harm is liable to develop serious mental trauma symptoms, often becoming definable as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms commonly include inability to sleep, work, eat properly, communicate with others and hold down relationships. Life is lived in a state of constant high stress, jumping at any noise, being frightened by commonplace circumstance such as being in a room with lots of people or in traffic, and breaking down and crying. Alcoholism, depression, drug addiction, suicide, inability to hold down a job are all likely and common, and have a very real effect on our health, social support services and industry.

Argument 2: Support for these ‘other’ victims is already being provided by police family liaison officers in many instances and increasingly by the voluntary sector. Seriously affected victims who need health care can access this through their local primary care trust.

The sum of this support is very, very limited and patchy as described here ?

a) Police family liaison officers do a vital role and are increasingly skilled in supporting victims of fatal road crash cases, thanks, in part to training from the voluntary sector including BrakeCare, but are not required to provide, nor should they provide, emotional support. The practical support they provide is limited to provision of information and help relating to their involvement ? so, for example, this would include information about what happened in the death, but not information about other important aspects of the death, such as how to pursue a civil claim, which is of vital importance when breadwinners are killed. They do not as a rule support at all in cases of serious injury due to underfunding, and may also decide not to support bereaved families if a crime was not committed.

b) Voluntary sector care is extremely poorly funded and therefore very restricted. For example, when BrakeCare was set up, a decision was made to approach the Home Office for funding for a guide for victims on emotional, practical and procedural issues, as a first step. This was for two reasons ? it was urgently needed and it was the cheapest possible service that could, feasibly, reach all bereaved families at a time when they were receiving nothing in the way of support from the system at all.

While achieving funding for this comprehensive, annually updated and widely acclaimed guide was a victory, it was a very, very small victory. This guide remains the only central funding provided on an on-going basis by the government for road crash victim support, in contrast to the many millions of pounds given to Victim Support annually to support victims of all levels of crime. In addition, the funding given to BrakeCare for this service has been cut in 2005/6, and requests for funding for a guide for seriously injured victims and the costs of translating the bereavement guide have not been granted as yet, aside from one translation into Welsh, despite the Home Office clearly recognising the value of translations and the gravity of serious injuries.

A Home Office funded pilot of three face-to-face support services, regionally run in West Yorkshire, Bedford and Merseyside, and fought for by Brake, lasted just 18 months and the providers, including BrakeCare, have been told no further money will be available centrally.

Aside from the guide, therefore, the main support offered through the voluntary sector is restricted to victim-led self-support groups and regional efforts such as a counselling-led charity for road crash victims in Bedfordshire which struggles on through fundraising. BrakeCare’s helpline receives no funding from government and, while professionally staffed with officers who receive a high level of training and expertise, can be staffed only part-time. A request by Brake for funding from the Department of Health to compile a directory of counsellors specialising in trauma counselling was turned down in 05. An attempt is currently being made by BrakeCare to develop face to face support services, starting in the West Yorkshire area where it worked on the Home Office funded pilot with local volunteer agency Victim Support West Yorkshire, but this has no funding to date.

c) Primary Care Trusts do not have appropriate services in place to help victims of violence. If a victim of violence approaches their local health service for support, they are liable to be prescribed addictive drugs to enable them to sleep and keep them calm, given the opportunity to talk to a non-specialist general counsellor attached to the GP surgery, or put on a very long waiting list for psychiatric support that is unlikely to be specialist support by counsellors who have experience in dealing with traumatised victims of violence.

4. Brake’s responses to this consultation

a) Are there any comments on the eligibility to receive Code services?

Road crash victims are, as described above, only eligible if a crime is identified. Often at the time of a crash it is difficult to determine this ? it may require an investigation first.

This means that the support available to road crash victims by the CJS and the charity Victim Support is not only limited, it is confusingly patchy and varies from area to area because the area of road crash support is so evidently in need of covering, but its funding isn’t there.

Victim Support, the charity, does not have a national policy of supporting road crash victims because it is not funded to do so. Section 9.2 of this Code clearly explains this. Section 9.2 explains that even when a crime has been committed, Victim Support is not required to provide services ? it is only required to when that crime was intended ? presumably meaning a decision to run someone over to murder them on purpose. This definition is used elsewhere in the Code for CJS services such as probation and prison. Confusingly, and because they recognise the need, however, some local Victim Support branches do offer some level of support to bereaved road crash victims. Similarly, and also confusingly, many police forces routinely dispatch Family Liaison Officers to everyone bereaved by a road death, while other forces only do it when a crime is clearly identified as having been committed. This means that some police forces, confronted by a mother whose young child has been killed by a driver driving at 29mph in a 30mph area would not offer any level of FLO support despite that mother’s needs being very great indeed, but other forces would automatically do so. Rarely do FLOs get assigned to life-changing injury road crash cases, such as spinal or brain injury cases, due to lack of manpower, and regardless of whether a crime has been committed, again, despite these families’ needs being very great indeed and as great if not greater, although different, to, for example, a rape victim’s needs.

At present, therefore, Brake has grave reservations about the Code of Practice being issued to road crash victims in its current format as no attempt is made in the code to explain this confusion, possibly because it is so confusing. The title of the Code’s guide for victims (Victims’ Code of Practice: A guide for victims) is in itself misguiding, as it does not include the world ‘crime’. If the Code is issued to road crash victims the title needs changing and a new page needs inserting for road crash victims explaining this confusing ‘patchiness’ of services and the fact that road crash victims may receive different eligibility to support in different areas of the country and should ask.

Clearly, the only way to permanently sort out this confusion is to make all victims of death and life-changing injuries on roads eligible for support and to provide funding and instruction for that support to be provided by police, courts and Victim Support or a more appropriate agency already involved in road crash victim care such as BrakeCare.

b) Do you consider these to be the correct obligations to ensure victims receive information, protection, support and the opportunity to provide information?

Should any obligations be added/removed or amended?

7.10 ? This section, and 7.11, seems to relate to a leaflet from the charity Victim Support and referrals to Victim Support only. Evidently, if the police are supporting a road crash victim, and their local Victim Support branch does not support victims of road crashes, this is an inappropriate instruction which needs clarification in this code. It is appropriate in these cases where no such local service is available that information about any alternative voluntary sector agencies is provided, eg. BrakeCare’s national helpline. BrakeCare’s services, and other agencies such as RoadPeace. These services are explained in the pack Advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road, produced by Brake and funded by the Home Office, which is referred to in 7.17 and which includes a flap for forces to include local service information (eg any leaflets about any local support charities, such as SCARD which is particularly active in Yorkshire). In this later clause (7.17) no time limit for handing out this vital pack, or the murder pack, is placed on the police, which needs remedying. Both these packs include crucial information relating to early stages of death ? including, for example, organ donation and seeing a body. Their value diminishes the longer their distribution is delayed.

7.17 ? See above the urgent need to put a time scale on the distribution of this literature for bereaved families. The literature should be handed out, wherever possible, at the time of informing the family of the death, for the reasons explained above. While the family may not read it then, the officer can use the pack to address key issues with the family, possibly reading sections for them. It is urgently suggested that in the final stages of writing this code and readdressing the sections relating to distribution of literature, the author of the code reads the two packs in question and the Victims of Crime leaflet and appropriately refers to them in this code and its accompanying ‘guide for victims’.

Worryingly, page 4 of the draft ‘guide for victims’ has a section called ‘Giving you the right information’ which goes on to identify the Victims of Crime leaflet but fails to mention the two vital packs identified in 7.17 for people who have been bereaved. This is a major oversight, particularly as on page 5 of the draft ‘guide for victims’ a leaflet about release of prisoners is named, so there seems to be no aversion to naming leaflets. This should be corrected with the insertion of text such as:

“Giving you, if you have been bereaved by homicide or road death, the most uptodate copy of nationally-approved advice guides from the Home Office, namely Advice for bereaved families and friends following murder or manslaughter or Advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road.”

7.17 - BrakeCare does not understand why a new clause, ‘or equivalent packs which may be produced in the future’ has been inserted into this section following the naming of the homicide pack by the Home Office and the road crash bereavement pack by BrakeCare. We have no plans to rename the pack or stop the pack. We would also be grateful of a mention in this section, as we hold the copyright for this pack and provide this service for the Home Office, and have done for some years now, in precisely the same way that Victim Support is a charity providing services for the Home Office. Victim Support is referred to numerous times in the Code as a charity service provider so the Home Office presumably has no difficulty mentioning its service providers, and this helps bring clarity to the police who we talk to on a daily basis in connection with the distribution of pack.

7.27 We have never seen sight of the leaflet referred to in this section, but would be interested to know whether or not protocols relating to informing victims of release of prisoners covers victims of traffic offenders who have killed. It should do. It causes great distress to bereaved families to find that a killer driver is not only out of prison, but often at the same time back on their community’s roads. Certainly road death constitutes a ‘violent offence’ and should be included in such protocols. It appears from section 13 and 14 of the code that they do not (see section 13.6 and 14.4).

9.6 Decisions relating to expansion of provision of face to face care services in the home to victims of violence such as bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims, as described in the introductory sections of this document, would take significant organisation and time. However, expansion of the Witness Service to include these victims would be relatively straightforward. Brake urges the CJS to consider this seriously as families affected by road death and injury almost invariably want to attend court. Again, the CJS will find that, regionally, the Witness Service often agree locally to help out road crash victims, because they recognise the need, but equally, many families are not offered this service and find themselves sitting in the same waiting area as the offender who has killed their loved one.

c) Are there any other comments you would like the Government to consider in relation to the Code?

As partially explained above, BrakeCare is unhappy with the current content of the Code’s guide for victims (Victims’ Code of Practice: A guide for victims). There are a number of serious problems with this guide and we have listed these problems together below:

  1. As explained above, its title is in itself misguiding, as it does not include the world ‘crime’. If the Code is issued to road crash victims, for example by being inserted in the flap of the pack Advice for families and friends following a death on the road, a new more accurate title needs writing and an extra page needs inserting for road crash victims explaining the confusing ‘patchiness’ of services and the fact that road crash victims may receive different eligibility to support in different areas of the country.

  2. Pages 4 and 5: Brake is disturbed at Page 4 and 5 of the draft ‘guide for victims’, which list the obligations of the police, and has obligations split into two sections ? giving you the right information, and looking after witnesses. Brake objects to information about court dates and case outcomes being included in the ‘looking after witnesses’ section. Police should be responsible for telling victims this information regardless of whether the victim is a witness. They should also be required to do this within a specified time frame. Bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims are often devastated to hear they have missed court dates, and outcomes happened weeks ago, but no one bothered to tell them.

  3. Pages 4 and 5: As stated above, it is inappropriate that two leaflets are referred to on these pages, but no mention is given to either the homicide or road death packs, which are crucial documents that all families in these situations are compelled by the code to receive (see 7.17). This needs correcting otherwise victims won’t know it is required of the police, which Brake obviously supports.

  4. The Victim Support helpline is referenced on page 7, and a very limited list of support agencies on page 17. Quite clearly, this list is restricted to agencies that do not in the main care for road crash victims - given the limited support by CJS and Victim Support for road crash victims, the least that could be done in this leaflet, perhaps on the page explaining the confusing provision of services for road crash victims, is to list the main voluntary agencies working in this sector such as BrakeCare and RoadPeace.

Conclusion

BrakeCare remains frustrated at the poor level of service for bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims and the practically non-existent funding for such services by central Government. We believe that this low level service is reflected in the difficulty the Government faces when preparing codes and leaflets for ‘victims’ using a definition which excludes road crash victims, and then requesting comments on such literature from road victim support charities such as Brake. We have tried to provide a constructive response to this consultation but can only do so in the context of this difficulty, and while obliged, at the same time, to make our frequently-repeated plea for appropriate services to be funded by the Government to end this difficulty.

End/ May 05

Corrine Thomas - Farewell

Corrine ThomasFarewell Corrine my darling daughter
By Olwen Sides

Corrine was 24 when she was killed in a car crash on 17th May 2008.

My beautiful daughter was taken away from us on the eve of her 25th birthday, along with two friends. She was one of the most special people you could ever meet. She left behind a 6 year old son, whom she made into one of the most remarkable little boys you could ever meet, she was such a dedicated mother but a cruel twist of fate means that he is going to have to grow up without her.

Corrine had so many friends it was amazing every time I went to her house there was always someone there having “a brew”, she loved to shop, she loved children, she loved animals, but most of all she loved her family.

She had everything to live for to she was training to be a teaching assistant, Corrine and her partner were getting their home the way they wanted it and would have dearly loved another child.

She also left behind a younger brother and sister, along with endless family who were so shocked a devastated by the sudden loss of such a happy determined person who was always there for them.

I not only lost my darling daughter, I lost one of my best friends. She was always there for everyone; a shoulder to cry on; a friend and sometimes a bit mad - a lovely person.

We all miss her so very much! The hole in all our lives is vast and our hearts are broken without her.

WHEN TOMORROW STARTS WITHOUT ME

When tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me, as much as I love you,
and each time you think of me I know you’ll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,
that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand,
and said my place was ready in heaven far above,
and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye,
for all life, I’d always thought I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for and so much yet to do,
it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays, the good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared and all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for awhile,
I’d say goodbye and kiss you and maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized that this could never be,
for emptiness and memories would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things that I’d miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did, my heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates, I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me, from His great golden throne,
He said, “This is eternity and all I’ve promised you”.
Today for life on earth is past but here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow, but today will always last,
and since each day’s the same day, there’s no longing for the past.
But you have been so faithful, so trusting, and so true.
Though there were times you did some things you knew you shouldn’t do.
But you have been forgiven and now at last you’re free.
So won’t you take my hand and share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,
for every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.

Drink drive tragedies

Claire and Jenny and Carla’s story

Claire Stoddart, 18, of Lowestoft, was driving on the A12 near Blythburgh in Suffolk on her way back from a Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert in Ipswich with her sister Jenny, 15, and three other friends Carla, Sarah and Adam also in the car. Their car was smashed into head-on by a car coming towards them over a brow on the wrong side of the road. Claire, Jenny and Carla were killed and Sarah and Adam suffered broken bones. Two passengers in the other car also died. The other car was being driven by a 23-year-old drink driver, an army corporal from Suffolk. He had drunk more than eight pints of lager. His prison sentence of eight and a half years for causing the deaths by drink driving was later reduced by two years to six and a half years.

Jordan Bell’s story

Jordan Bell, from Colchester, was her parents “sunshine”. She was just 14 when she was killed by a driver who was just 2.5% under the legal alcohol limit and had cannabis in his system. Jordan was attempting to cross the road at a designated crossing on Layer Road in Colchester. She was treated by paramedics at the scene and pronounced dead at Colchester General Hospital sometime later. The driver, Mark Batten, 28, escaped prosecution for drink driving because he was ‘just’ under the limit. He was fined £750 and banned for one year for speeding and careless driving. Jordan’s family will have to spend the rest of their lives coping with their grief.

Kirsty and Luke’s story

A 22-year-old drunk road-rage driver who caused a crash that killed two teenagers was jailed for four-and-a-half years. David Stone was three times over the limit when he chased a car following a minor bump and rammed it from behind repeatedly. The teenagers’ car ploughed into an oncoming car, killing passengers Kirsty Lipscombe, 17, and Luke Bowler, 18. A third passenger, Toby Simpson, 17, was attacked by Stone at the scene.

Emma - An English Rose

EmmaEmma

When I close my eyes to think of you
Your big bright smile comes into view
A person who was gentle, loving, thoughtful and unassuming
Limelight shy, Caring, Sensitive and appealing
I watched you grow as like from a seedling to a flower
An English Rose, Blossoming, despite life’s showers
Your petals glistened, reflecting sunshine
I was always proud that you were a sister of mine
A life still young
Your Lord Jesus took you away
So suddenly, unexpected
Much to our grief and dismay
We don’t know why this had to happen!
But I know that he has you in his hand
For in a short life lived, you’d touched the hearts of so many
In a way that we all would wish we can
I am just so very glad to have known you
As sisters we were close
I’m just sorry it wasn’t to be for longer
But in loving you I can boast!
Even though I’m missing you
I know you’re there in heaven
This is not just a cliche - One day we will meet again!
I will always carry with me my memories of you……until then!

Families releasing photos of victims to the media

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Below, we tell the stories of two mothers who have suffered the horrific experience of bereavement through a road crash who have taken the step of releasing to the media pictures of their loved ones as they lay in their hospital beds. In one case, the 20 year old young woman was already dead when the photograph was taken. In the other, the young boy was critically ill when he was photographed and died shortly afterwards. We take a look at the terrible circumstances surrounding each death and examine why these two mothers took the brave step of allowing the world to see their children in this heartbreaking way.

In memory of Abigail Craen

Medical student Abigail Craen, 20, was killed by a hit and run driver in October 2005. Abigail was thrown more than 30ft along the road when she was hit by a car as she used a pelican crossing in Edgbaston. The car, which went through a red light, sped off without stopping. [1]

Abigail’s mum, Susan, released a photograph of her daughter lying dead in hospital to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to raise awareness of the effects of road crashes.

She said: “I chose to release the photograph of Abigail lying dead in hospital because I thought it was important for people to see the effect of what can happen if you do not treat your vehicle with respect. When people are killed, a photo is often released of a happy smiling person and yet they are dead. I wanted to shock people into paying more attention behind a wheel.”

Daniel Conroy Curtin

Eight-year-old Daniel Conroy Curtin was hit by a speeding stolen car as he played with friends near his home in Middlesborough on May 16 2006. Daniel was left fighting for his life, and died in hospital days later due to the severity of his head injuries. [2]

Daniel’s mother, Clare Conroy, allowed him to be photographed as he lay in hospital breathing through a ventilator in intensive care, believing at the time that he would get better. She chose to release the photograph to highlight what can happen when a child is hit by a car.

Following Daniel’s death, his mother requested that the media no longer use the photograph taken of him in hospital, but instead use a photograph taken on his seventh birthday. Clare made the decision to donate Daniel’s heart, kidneys and liver to transplant surgeons, and said she hoped his death would be a warning to people everywhere of the dangers posed if youngsters are tempted to get behind the wheel of a car.

Clare said: “Cars are not some play thing. In the wrong hands they can and do kill and I would urge all parents to think long and hard on that. No one should have to go through what our family has endured for the past nine days. We have sat by his bed and watched Daniel’s fight for life. Daniel has died but I hope his spirit and memory will live on and that some good can come from the tragic consequences that have engulfed our family.”

A brave choice

Brake believes that parents who release such photos should be applauded for their bravery and given support, and that parents who chose not to release such photos should have their wishes respected.

Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive of Brake said: “The heartrending photographs which Abigail’s mum and Daniel’s mum bravely issued to the national media should act as a wake up call to the Government and everyone who gets behind the wheel to stop, once and for all, deaths in such horrendous circumstances. Such photos may not have an impact on all drivers, but doubtless have an impact on some. Anything we can do to raise awareness of the appalling effects of road crashes, and their frequency, we should do. So often road crashes are treated as local news and don’t even feature in the national media, despite killing so many more people than more high profile disasters such as terrorism or aeroplane crashes.”

What should parents do who want to consider placing such photographs in the media?

While some parents would be horrified at the thought of the world seeing a photograph of their dead, or dying, child, others may get comfort from the fact that other people are sharing their grief and witnessing the tragedies that can occur on our roads. They may also take solace in the fact that some good may come from the death of their child - if the photograph saves the life of just one other child it has not been in vain.

If you are being helped by a specially-trained police officer called a Family Liaison Officer, they should be able to help you liaise with the media and release your photo for you.

Alternatively, you can talk to the Brake helpline for bereaved families on 0808 8000 401. We can advise on many aspects of talking to the media, including the help that police family liaison officers may be able to provide, or any other concerns you wish to discuss with us.

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[1] Hit-and-run Killer Did This to my Daughter, (Birmingham Mail, 3 November 2005)
[2] Joyrider Crash Boy’s Organs to be Donated, (Daily Mail. 26 May 2006)