The 29th June 2009 was a particularly beautiful, sunny day, the sort that makes you glad to be alive. However, by the end of the morning, Catriona was dead and our lives had been changed forever.
Cat was a caring, beautiful and loving wife to Anish, youngest child to Janet, sister to Fiona and Ian and dear friend and colleague to so many. Cat was always a happy person who would see the best in every situation. She was sensitive, thoughtful and deeply loyal to the many friends she made over the years. We are all still so devastated by her untimely death and the sudden nature of it.
Cat was a very experienced and responsible cyclist. She left her home in Clapham to cycle to her work in the City, as she did most mornings. At 8.20am she stopped at a red light at the junction by Oval underground station. She was correctly positioned in the cycle bay and immediately behind her was a fully laden HGV waiting to turn left. CCTV footage shows both Cat and the lorry were stationary at the junction for over 29 seconds. As the light turned green, she pulled off and was dragged under the lorry. The driver appeared completely unaware and only stopped when witnesses shouted and banged on his cab.
Cat was taken by air ambulance to the Royal London Hospital and was pronounced dead later that morning. The moment when we all learnt our wife, daughter and sister was dead will never leave us.
The driver was breathalysed on the scene and failed the test. He was arrested and bailed on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The lorry was fitted with all mandatory mirrors allowing full visibility around the cab. Cat, was wearing hi-viz clothing, and tests show she would have been clearly visible in the driver’s mirrors during the long time they were both stationary.
A breath test conducted at the police station some time after the incident showed the driver still to be over the legal limit of 35mg. A back-calculation estimated a level of 49mg at the time of the incident, which would have been considerably higher when the driver started work early that morning. In addition to being over the legal limit and failing to look in his mirrors, phone records prove the driver was also using a mobile phone at the time.
We have received no apology from the driver, nor from his employers. The driver, although driving legally that day, had many prior driving convictions. These include being jailed in 2003 for driving an HGV while disqualified; previous jail term for reckless driving; 3 drink drive offences; 20 counts of driving an HGV whilst disqualified; 2 counts of driving without insurance; 2 counts of taking a car without consent. As well as other driving offences, he has a number of other criminal convictions.
The Metropolitan Police allocated a liaison officer to our family, who was extremely helpful in guiding us through the unfamiliar, complex and distressing legal proceedings that we encountered over the next weeks and months. The case came to trial in November 2010, reawakening many emotions and memories and, although we were determined to be present throughout, the strain inevitably told on us all from time to time. However, we managed to stay united and calm, only breaking down once the chairman of the jury announced a guilty verdict. The driver was jailed for 7 years and received a lifetime driving ban. The Judge commented he was aghast that someone with his record could be allowed to drive an HGV legally.
We were, and still are, greatly supported by the officials and members of RoadPeace. Knowing there was someone available to answer questions and share experiences has been invaluable. We were particularly grateful for their daily attendance in the public gallery during the Crown Court trial.
Our anguish goes on. Yes, we have many happy memories, but we cannot escape thoughts of what might have been. Family gatherings are still particularly hard and occasions, such as being asked to compile this case study, re-arouse raw grief.