Alex Jane McVitty, killed June 2000
"My daughter was killed in June 2000. She was cycling to work in the City of London, when she was knocked from her bike and run over by the driver of a concrete mixer lorry turning left across her path. She was my only child and the most precious person in my life. Then she was dead.
It was a shattering and unbelievable blow for me. I was desperate to come to some understanding of how my daughter’s death had occurred because she was an experienced and responsible cyclist.
I had a number of questions I wanted to put to the driver during the hearing but the barrister who represented me was not allowed to question the driver. The inquest verdict was ‘accidental death’, because it always is, and it is utterly meaningless.
The police did not contact me at all for months, and then only at my initiative because I learned by chance that the driver was going to be prosecuted for the minor traffic offence of careless driving.
I needed to know what evidence was going before the court so as to prepare myself for it but, again, crucial information was not given to me. I had asked if there was any visual evidence that was going to be shown in the court which I would need to be aware of and was told there was not - but in fact the police had made a compilation video from security camera videos along her route, showing my daughter cycling to her death. I saw this for the first time in court, and then had to watch it over and over again during the trial.
The policeman who had taken the driver’s statement said that he could not read his own writing, and so crucial questions, which again I hoped could be put to the driver, were ruled out. The conduct of the prosecution was incompetent and the driver was acquitted.
I was deeply traumatized by the whole experience.
I brought up my daughter to be a worthwhile member of society. I had always obeyed the law and worked hard and paid my taxes, and carried out my duties as a citizen, but when I needed the state to carry out its duties towards me, it failed.
And I am not alone. Countless families have been failed in the same way. The death of a child is enough to cope with, but I felt that the law then compounded this misery by systematically marginalising me and making me feel irrelevant in the death of my own child. Our shocking reality is denied and a life sentence of unresolved anguish is imposed on the bereaved.
Road deaths are not ‘accidents’ - unavoidable, unforeseeable, inevitable, unpreventable sequences of events. They have causes and they are all avoidable.
In the case of my daughter’s death, I did my own analysis of what happened, and what needed to be done about it. I then bought shares in the company, which owned the cement lorry and went to their Annual General Meeting to speak about my experience and my suggestions for action. They agreed to work with me and since then I have been involved in various training initiatives for their drivers, and trials are underway on a number of adaptations to the vehicles, improvements which are also being adopted by other companies."
Cynthia Barlow, Alex's mother.
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