Pembroke woman killed friend in tragic motoring incident

By Observer Reporter in Crime

A 77 year old woman from Angle ran over and killed one of her best friends because she could not get used to driving an automatic, a judge heard this afternoon.

Sally Denman began to get out of her Volkswagen Polo to open the passenger door for Betty Colley, aged 78.

But she had left the car in “drive” and as it crept forwards she panicked and stamped on the accelerator instead of the brake.

The car hit Mrs. Colley, from Freshwater East, and lifted her onto the bonnet, banging her head against the windscreen.

Swansea crown court heard how she rolled off the bonnet but the car kept on going and ran over her, dragging her along underneath.

The vehicle then hit a bank and overturned.

Denman, of Four Winds, Angle Village, Pembroke, admitted causing death by careless driving. She was jailed for four weeks, suspended for six months, and ordered to pay a court surcharge of £115. She was also banned from driving for two years.

Jim Davis, prosecuting, said on August 13 last year Denman and another friend, Lorna Rees, had arranged to visit a flower show at Stackpole with Mrs. Colley.

The plan had been to meet in a lay-by on an unclassified road in Maidenwells, where Mrs Colley would park her car and climb into Denman’s Polo.

Denman was in the habit of getting out of her car to open a door for anyone she was picking up.

Mr. Davis said Denman had had difficulty adjusting to driving an automatic and on at least one other occasion the car had shot forwards out of control.

On other occasions she had reversed instead of going forwards.

On the day of the accident Denman should have placed the gear lever in “park,” put on the handbrake and turn off the engine before starting to climb out.

But she appeared to have done none of those things, he added, and as soon as she lifted her foot of the brake peddle the car began to move forwards.

Tests showed that the handbrake would have prevented the car from moving forwards even if only seven out of nine “clicks” had been engaged.

Denman and Lorna Rees were trapped inside the overturned Polo and were rescued by other motorists.

An air ambulance arrived with a critical care doctor but Mrs. Colley could not be saved.

Mr. Davis said Mrs. Colley’s family had spoken of their devastation. Their overwhelming concern, he added, was that Denman never got behind the wheel of a car again.

Tom Scapens, the barrister representing Denman, said she had voluntarily surrendered her licence shortly after the accident.

“She is truly remorseful and that remorse has broken her. She fully admits her guilt and the burden is a heavy one,” he added.

“She realises she should not drive again.”

Judge Keith Thomas said it had been a dreadful tragedy for all concerned and no penalty would fill the gap left in the lives of Mrs. Colley’s family.

He said Denman’s inability to get used to driving an automatic had led to the accident.

“I have no doubt that in her confusion she pressed the accelerator instead of the brake,” he added.