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Helen Gilliver inquest hears prosecution of fatal Highcliffe crash driver Leslie Morrell was stopped after his terminal illness diagnosis

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A TERMINAL illness diagnosis stopped the prosecution of an elderly man who was charged over a fatal road crash in Highcliffe, an inquest heard.

Leslie Morrell (91), was due to face an allegation of causing the death of Helen Gilliver (73) by careless driving but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) opted to drop the matter before it got to trial, Bournemouth Coroner’s Court was told.

"In this case there was sufficient evidence to charge Mr Morrell for the related offence but the matter was later withdrawn by the CPS on a public interest basis rather than an evidential one," Insp Craig Tanner, from Dorset Police, explained.

Emergency services at the scene of the crash
Emergency services at the scene of the crash

Retired part-time bank cashier and widower Ms Gilliver, was walking from Highcliffe centre towards the castle, where she was due to meet a friend, at 10.20am on Friday 10th July 2020.

As she passed the recreation ground she crossed Wharncliffe Road at its junction with the A337 Lymington Road, where she was struck by a red Honda Jazz driven by Mr Morrell – who was returning home from shopping at Sainsbury’s.

She suffered "traumatic" and "unsurvivable" brain injuries and died at Southampton General Hospital later that day.

Because of his diagnosis, Mr Morrell was spared appearing at the inquest, which instead heard his police interview over the incident. In it he said he had slowed to first gear before making the turn, "going at no more than 5mph" into Wharncliffe Road.

He said he noticed Ms Gilliver but his attention was also caught by a black car further up the road travelling towards him.

His car then hit Ms Gilliver – who was described by the driver and other witnesses as going onto the bonnet before falling on the road. Mr Morrell got out of the car and held her hand – but said it was already cold.

However, at the inquest it emerged no other witnesses could recall seeing the black car described by Mr Morrell, no such car stopped at the scene and police found no trace of one.

At the inquest the victim’s brother, George Tomkinson, pressed Insp. Tanner on the black car and suggested it "did not exist", but the officer refused to speculate.

Mr Tomkinson added: "I find the whole thing very difficult to understand. He [Mr Morrell] seemed to be travelling slowly yet the impact seemed to be considerable considering the damaged caused [to the car] and the throwing of my sister off the front of the car onto the road."

Mr Morrell passed a roadside eyesight test at the scene of the incident, and no traces of alcohol or drugs were found in his system, the inquest heard.

The incident was seen by Felicity Porter, who broke down in tears as she recalled hearing a "really unpleasant thud" having parked nearby to get her two young children out of her car.

"I remember someone shouting to him ‘Didn’t you see her?’ He replied with words to the effect of ‘I didn’t see her’," she added.

Sebastian McDonald, who was following Mr Morrell before he turned right, believed the octogenarian was driving "appropriately" before making the turn.

The inquest was told how Ms Gilliver was an avid fan of Elvis and loved Manchester City, cricket and tennis. She married her "soulmate" Kevin in 1968 and they moved around the country due to his job, while she worked in banks. Eventually the pair settled in Highcliffe.

Kevin was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died in 2014. She was “devastated” but joined a local walking club, and making jam and chutney.

Assistant Dorset coroner Richard Middleton recorded a verdict that Ms Gilliver died as a result of a road traffic collision that caused traumatic brain injuries.

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