‘Driver blameless’ for road death of Peckham pensioner

News Desk (10 November, 2016)

The 76-year-old from the traveller community in Brideale Close was killed instantly on September 4 last year

5091Great-grandmother Mary O'Leary pictured in August this year


An inquest into the tragic death of popular grandmother Mary O’Leary heard that the lorry driver who hit her was blameless in her death.

The 76-year-old from the traveller community in Brideale Close was killed instantly on September 4 last year, after stepping in front of a skip-lorry in Peckham High Street, opposite the junction with Rye Lane.

Police analysis of the collision established that driver Robert Britten could not have avoided hitting Mrs O’Leary as she walked diagonally towards the front of the lorry, as the lights turned green.

Mr Britten told the hearing at Southwark Coroner’s Court last week he had been on the road “since six o’clock that morning” but had taken a break at 12pm.

Before the collision at about 2pm, Mr Britten said he was in the eastbound lane “four cars back, and in sitting traffic at a red light”.

“The bus lane was inside me, and the bus moved off before I did. I started to move off in second gear. Then I saw a man waving at me to stop. At this point I had moved two or three metres closer to the lights,” he said.

The assistant coroner, Sarah Ormond-Walshe asked Mr Britten “what he had done in relation to looking in any mirrors before setting off”.

Mr Britten said he specifically remembered looking in all six of his mirrors.

Ms Ormond-Walshe then asked if there were any blind spots. He replied saying there were “multiple” blind spots depending on the position Mrs O’Leary, a pedestrian, would have been standing in at any given split second.

Pc Matthew McCormack, who investigated the incident, provided the coroner with diagrams depicting the blind spot Mr Britten had from the driver’s seat.

“You could have an endless amount of mirrors in a vehicle, but you would need to have someone looking at each of them all of the time,” Pc McCormack said.

“Only if he had been looking at a particular mirror at one precise time would he have been able to see her. I wouldn’t have expected him to be able to see her at the time.”

It was also mentioned that CCTV of the collision was provided from three nearby businesses, and a witness told police the driver “was not to blame”.

Concluding the hearing, Ms Ormond-Walshe, said: “multiple trauma was the medical cause of death, after coming into collision with a lorry when she crossed Peckham High Street.”

Mrs O’Leary’s family did not attend the hearing on November 2.

She was buried in Camberwell on September 30, following a procession through Peckham High Street.


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