My mother was killed on a road in East Sussex in November 2013. Indifferent to yet another road death in Sussex the police did not, in my view, carry out a proper investigation into her death and the forensic collisions officer was ill qualified to make a proper report – in one case claiming that my mother’s eyesight was failing because she needed reading glasses!
Carrying out my own research into her death revealed she was not ‘crossing the road’ when she died – as the police reported to the press before informing me, but as her injuries revealed, standing stationary, waiting to cross. Without a Home Office pathologist called to the scene however, and with a coroner’s officer intent on destroying all vital evidence, including her clothes, it was clear that no investigation would depart from the hypotheses invented at the scene. These were:
1. That she was drunk and stumbled into the road
2. That she simply failed to see the oncoming car as she was crossing;
3. That she misjudged the speed of the car as she crossed; and
4. That the driver could not see her as she was wearing dark clothing. This comment was written in the police’s notes at the scene even though the coat she was wearing (a bright purple and white flowered anorak with reflectors on the back and sleeves) was clearly visible .
I have since learnt that the four hypotheses (above) are commonly used by the police, as reasons why pedestrians die on the road, whether true or not. As it turned out the toxicology report showed no alcohol in my mother’s system so the police decided to settle on points 2 and 4 as a convenient explanation for public consumption, never once considering the driver’s responsibility in her death.
At Inquest, and on hearing the Body Worn Video the driver admitted to having been distracted, looking elsewhere when he rammed into my mother at 50mph. She didn’t stand a chance.
My experience with the police, the CPS and the Coroner were mainly negative. My book however, seeks to take an objective view – to make an academic study of road policing investigations, and the criminal justice system whilst hearing stories from victims families. I am as interested in good experiences as in poor ones, for the latter should surely be able to learn from the former.
I hold a BA, MA and PhD in Philosophy; a BA in Fine Art (painting) from Central St Martins and am currently studying for an MSc in Policing; I have also worked and volunteered, for the police in various roles, to gain practical knowledge of some of the issues faced.
If you have been affected by a road death, I hope you have the courage to tell your story. Please get in touch.
Dr Eccy de Jonge