Tributes have poured in for a “kind and good-hearted” great-grandmother who was crushed by a lorry in Peckham High Street on Friday afternoon.
Mary O’ Leary was out doing her shopping, as she was inclined to do a few times a week, when the collision happened as she crossed the road towards the top of Rye Lane.
Her husband, two sons, eight grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren are still in a state of shock but as news of the tragic accident spread, hundreds of heartfelt tributes from members of the wider family came flooding into the News.
Mary’s nineteen-year-old great-niece, Winnie Joyce, described the 76-year-old pensioner as “The most kind, good-hearted woman ever,” who always helped everyone in any way she could. “I just can’t get my head around what happened to her,” she said.
Born in Ireland into the Traveller community, Mary (neé) Joyce moved to Peckham around thirty years ago with her extended family and settled in Brideale Close, where Winnie says she will be greatly missed by everyone.
“Everyone who knew Auntie Mary never had a bad thing to say about her. She has the most gentle soul and was the most respectful woman in the Traveller community. This was the most tragic, awful death of a beautiful woman,” said Winnie.
One of seven children, Mary is survived by three brothers, Timothy, Christopher and Joseph.
“She took my heart when she died,” said Timothy Joyce. “She was the only sister we had in England and she is dearly missed.”
Grandson, Michael O’Leary and his wife Yasmin said Mary “saw no wrong in anybody” and would “bend over backwards” to make sure the family had everything they needed. “She has been cruelly taken away from her family who loved and adored her so much,” said Michael. “She was the heart of our home and now it’s broken in half and will never be repaired.”
Family was always the most important thing in Mary’s life but she suffered a great tragedy when one of her three sons died at the age of fifteen around 35 years ago.
As a devout Catholic, Mary would go to church at Our Lady of Sorrows in Friary Road every Sunday. Assistant Priest, Father Vincent George paid tribute to Mary’s “quiet faith” and said he and members of the congregation have been praying for her every day since they heard the “shocking” news.
Father Vincent says the church will now “walk hand in hand with the family” as they go through the ordeal of planning Mary’s final goodbye.
Witnesses at the scene of the shocking accident at around 2pm on Friday voiced concerns that there should be a pedestrian crossing at the junction of Peckham High Street and Rye Lane as people pile off the bus there and cross the busy road, rather than walk to the crossing near the library.
Peckham resident, Tracey Bingham, 43, who was at the accident scene, said she would never cross the road in that spot again and called for a crossing to be put in place. “There should be a crossing there. I will never cross there again. I did it just two days ago with my boys, but it’s an accident waiting to happen. They’ve got to put something in there or move the bus stop,” she said.
Peckham High Street is owned by Transport for London but Southwark Council’s cabinet member for environment and public realm, Darren Merrill said he will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the accident investigation. “My deepest condolences go to her family and friends at this difficult time. The police, and Transport for London, which is responsible for Peckham High Street, will investigate the cause of the accident, and I will be asking for an update as soon as this is completed,” said Cllr Merrill.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of the female pedestrian who was sadly killed in collision with a HGV earlier this week. Road safety for all is something we take extremely seriously and, as previously announced, Peckham has been selected as one of two locations for pedestrian focused safety improvements as part of the pedestrian town centres programme.”
“Work is now underway to identify a wide ranging set of improvements to make the area safer and more appealing for pedestrians and over the next two years these ideas will be developed and implemented.”
The police are appealing for witnesses of the accident to come forward so they can continue to determine exactly what happened. The driver of the lorry stopped at the scene and was not arrested.
Anyone with information or witnesses to the collision is asked to call the Roads and Transport Policing Command at Catford on 0208 285 1574 or the police non-emergency line on 101.
Mourners are invited to pay their respects to Mary as she will be laying in rest at F A Albin & Sons chapel on Tuesday September 29 from 1.30 to 4.30pm. In traditional Irish style, Mary’s coffin will then be taken to St James the Great chapel in Elm Grove, Peckham, for a 6pm mass. The following day a funeral mass for Mary will be held at 11am at St James the Great before the cortege proceeds to Camberwell Old Cemetery.
The family welcomes anyone who knew Mary to come to the church and the viewing.
Family ask for videos and photographs of scene to be taken down
Mary O’Leary’s family has asked that all videos and photographs taken of her on Friday afternoon be taken down from the internet.
Distressing video footage of Mary’s accident was posted online on Friday afternoon but it received so much criticism from outraged members of the public that the original post was removed soon after.
Team Shutdown UK, who describe themselves as London’s number one entertainment and marketing firm, posted the graphic video on their Facebook page shortly before 4pm and it was also shared on Twitter.
As some of the upsetting footage showed Mary was still alive for a short time after the accident, appalled viewers condemned those who had stood taking photos and videos instead of helping Mary. Speaking to the News, a spokesperson for the family requested they were all taken down “as we as her family don’t want them up.”
A passer-by at the scene who tried to use her nursing qualification to help Mary, said she was “horrified” to see that no one else stopped to help.
“All the crowd were interested in was taking photos of her in that state, said ‘soniaclimes’ on internet message board Reddit.
“I tried to cover her up and stop people from filming her to preserve some dignity and privacy for her and for her family.
“The far more terrible sight was the crowds of idiots taking photos and videos of her body. They even shouted at me to stop trying to cover her up and then had the nerve to tell me to stop telling them to put their cameras away and give her some dignity,” she added.
On Twitter @AdoreRenee said: “A woman was tragically killed by a lorry in Peckham and bystanders decided to pull out their phones and video record the woman lying there dead.”
@chilltopher said: “Oh my God why would you upload a video of the woman who got run over in Peckham yesterday to Twitter?” while @AkeebLDN said the video was “vile.”
Team Shutdown UK did not respond to the News’ request for a comment before our deadline.