#UK Her lonely fight for justice is testament to love and tenacity: Widow gets justice after four years #UKnews
From the second the cops standing on her doorstep stated: ‘Can we come in?’ Claire Montgomery’s life went into freefall.
The suitcases for her huge retirement vacation along with her husband had been already packed. They had been supposed to be leaving for Costa Rica and Ecuador the following day.
David, 66, a retired engineer, had solely popped out for a fast lunch, to say goodbye to his associates from his motorbike membership.
Suddenly, she was making an attempt to course of the information that he was lifeless — hit by a automobile whereas on his motorcycle.
Their two youngsters had to be instructed. David’s sisters. Claire didn’t know what to do, to say, to assume. What she does bear in mind was that the cops had been variety.
One of them assured her that, no matter else she was dealing with, she needn’t fear concerning the authorized course of.
‘He said a man had tried to do a U-turn and gone straight into David. It was a clear-cut case of dangerous driving and there were witnesses. Justice would be done.
‘At least that was one thing I did not have to worry about.’
What Claire, a retired social employee, didn’t realise on the time was that she would have to flip detective to guarantee justice was served.
Claire Montgomery has lastly seen justice served after Bedfordshire Police didn’t take appropriate motion following the loss of life of her husband David Fudge, 66
She would have to fight — ‘and fight, and fight’, she says — even paying £2,500 for her personal report into the accident, in order that the person accountable for her husband’s loss of life could possibly be held to account.
‘It’s appalling,’ she nods. ‘No one should have to pay for justice.’ And this week, lastly, justice was certainly served.
At Cambridge Crown Court, pensioner William Curtis, 88, was discovered responsible of inflicting loss of life by careless driving.
It was no thanks to Bedfordshire Police. Despite the assurances of that first officer, the drive initially refused to convey prices towards Curtis, suggesting to Claire that her husband had been partly to blame for the accident.
This was merely not true, and was certainly challenged by the coroner at David’s inquest.
No one ought to have to pay for justice
Claire, now 68, has spent the previous four years difficult officers, all the best way up to and together with Chief Constable Garry Forsyth, and enlisting the assistance of her native MP.
Her extraordinary battle has required not solely deep pockets however deep emotional reserves.
How this grieving widow was handled by the police is troubling. So flawed was the accident report that her personal skilled challenged its findings inside ten minutes of seeing it.
Miss Montgomery (pictured along with her late husband) has spent the final four years in addition to paying £2,500 for her personal report into the accident, in order that the person accountable for the loss of life could possibly be held to account
Even extra worrying, Claire found that the pensioner the police appeared unwilling to blame was the grandfather of a civilian police worker.
Worse, when she challenged the ‘official’ model of occasions, she was handled with contempt.
‘It was Kafkaesque at times,’ Claire admits. ‘This was a man attempting to do a U-turn across three lanes of traffic, at a point where it was not safe to do so — and they were looking for things my husband had done wrong. At one stage I was told that there was no sign on the road about not doing U-turns.
How dare the police try to blame David?
‘My response to that one is that there is never a sign telling you not to jump off a cliff — but it’s nonetheless not a good suggestion.
‘I could not understand it. Even when it emerged that he hadn’t had his listening to help in, or his glasses on, they nonetheless tried to counsel my husband was at fault. I bear in mind asking them, tongue-in-cheek, if the previous man was associated, as a result of I couldn’t see one other clarification. I used to be instructed: “No, no, absolutely not.”
‘But he was, and it was subsequently confirmed that his granddaughter had emailed officers working on the case for information, and her husband had sat in on his interview.’
Claire, in the meantime, was fobbed off because the officers ‘closed ranks’ and ‘doubled down’.
‘I was seen as an irritation. Eventually, I had the right to see all the paperwork, although I had to use Freedom of Information legislation to get some of it, and I was not talked about in terms that were flattering.
‘Two of the officers referred to me as “that woman” and apparently used emojis about me. I can only imagine what emojis.
‘The stress of it — because this fight has been my life for the past four years — has been considerable. The physical and mental toll has been awful.
‘My family wanted me to drop it because of how it was affecting my health. But there was no way I was going to let them say my husband did anything wrong, when he did not. How dare they!’
Claire tells the total story within the immaculate front room of the house she and David shared in St Albans, Herts. Family pictures provide proof of an extended and glad life collectively.
They met in 1979 when he labored within the defence trade and she was a senior social employee. They had two youngsters, a boy and a lady. Their first grandchildren, twin granddaughters, arrived simply final yr, ‘which David would have loved’. They had retired collectively, with grand plans for the long run.
David Fudge had been obsessive about motorbikes since he was 16, was a member of two biking teams, and ceaselessly went on motorcycling holidays. Claire was extra cautious, however had joined him, using pillion, on journeys. ‘He was obsessive about safety. He had never been in an accident. He never took a risk,’ she says.
The minute she noticed two cops on the doorstep on that dreadful day in November 2018, she knew one thing horrible had occurred. ‘I said: “You are going to tell me my husband is dead, aren’t you?” ’
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Garry Forsyth (pictured) – who admits his officers failed – is standing down subsequent month
She insists there was no anger directed at Curtis — not then anyway.
‘I think I even felt quite sorry for him,’ Claire says. ‘I think if he’d accomplished what most individuals would have accomplished — arise and say “Oh God, I did something terrible” — I might have forgiven him.
‘If there had been any question of a custodial sentence I would have written to the judge myself and said: “I do not want that.”
‘But he has never said “sorry”. And you can’t forgive somebody who isn’t sorry.’
It is regular police process to interview a suspect in a deadly collision on the scene, or as quickly as doable after the accident. This didn’t occur.
‘We had Christmas, then January went into February, then March, April and May. When I queried it I was told it was impossible to say how long the investigation would take.’
‘The cost to my family has been unacceptable’
The officer who had initially instructed Claire the case was clear-cut had been taken off the investigation, nevertheless, and changed by a feminine officer, ‘who took a very different tone with me.
‘She made it very clear he should not have said it was straightforward.
‘Later she said they were never going to charge a little old man who had dementia. It was the first time I’d heard any point out of dementia.’
Confusingly, Claire says she was later instructed that Curtis didn’t have dementia after all.
In reality, it was seven months earlier than the aged driver was even questioned. This is notably outstanding on condition that the investigating unit — comprising officers from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire forces — was beneath evaluate due to failings in investigations.
‘He wasn’t match to be questioned, apparently,’ she says, declaring that since Curtis was finally deemed match to stand trial, this was ‘odd’.
‘Once he had been questioned, the liaison officer told me — via email — that because of his age, they would be looking at a charge of careless driving, rather than dangerous driving.
David Fudge was out with fellow motorcycle club members when William Curtis (pictured), who is now 88, did a U-turn with his Hyundai on the A4146 near Billington, Bedfordshire, and fatally crashed into him in November 2018
‘I didn’t care what the cost was. I simply needed it to be over.’
‘Then, on October 1, the officer said they had the forensic report and I wasn’t going to prefer it.’
That’s an understatement. It was finally established that this report contained errors, together with incorrect velocity calculations, however Claire’s horror stemmed from the truth that it ‘focused on David’s failings’.
‘It was all about what David should have done. He should have been looking for this car coming across the traffic, apparently.
‘It said he was driving in an unorthodox manner. It came at everything from the point of view that he was the suspect and Mr Curtis was the victim.
‘It even said that Mr Curtis had done all the right things by looking in his mirrors.
‘There was a line that said “both the motorcyclist and the driver suffered serious injuries”. My husband was killed. They said they wouldn’t be referring it to the CPS.’
At the tip of October 2019, Claire requested a gathering with the police. ‘The bikers paid for me to have a solicitor, who took one look at the report and said “the police are stark raving bonkers”.’
Here, issues turned farcical, Claire says. ‘By the end of that meeting, officers admitted they had got things wrong.
‘But then they asked if I would like to rewrite the report. My solicitor said: “Excuse me, it is not my client’s job to rewrite your report for you. Can’t you do it?” and they stated: “No, we are not allowed.” ’
A evaluate of this report was requested. ‘It was a shambles. We ended up with a review of a review of a review,’ Claire says. The new model contained that astonishing line that Curtis hadn’t been sporting his listening to help or his prescription glasses, so he might neither hear nor see the motorcycle coming. Yet nonetheless the case was not referred to the CPS.
Claire had a heated dialog with the investigating sergeant. ‘I stored saying: “I cannot believe you are telling me that this old man couldn’t see or hear, but you can’t refer this to the CPS?” But he dug his heels in.’
With no prospect of a referral to the CPS — crucial for a felony conviction — an inquest was held. Emma Whitting, senior coroner for Bedfordshire challenged the police proof, concluding that David had been driving lawfully, and that it was Curtis who had precipitated the accident.
Claire breathed a sigh of aid and contacted the Chief Constable for Bedfordshire. ‘Naively, I thought he would be falling over himself to say “sorry”, but no, nothing had changed,’ she says.
Miss Montgomery and her husband David, pictured left, had been set to go to Costa Rica to rejoice his retirement the day earlier than the crash
By now, Claire had engaged the assistance of her MP, and the charities Road Victims Trust and RoadPeace, which assist crash victims and their households. She had additionally submitted formal complaints and launched a civil case.
She was spending each waking second poring over the mounting paperwork, ‘and driving everyone, and myself, mad’.
‘The only chink of hope came in January 2021 when the Chief Constable told me that if I could find new evidence he would have another look at it.’
Enter David Loat, a former police officer now working as an impartial investigator, whom Claire employed to go over the file.
‘He warned me that it might take a while for him to come back to me, but within ten minutes he called me and said: “This police report is an absolute disgrace.” ’
It was the breakthrough she wanted. The Chief Constable stated a brand new group — however one headed by the unique investigating sergeant — would examine. Again, Claire objected, and it was agreed that the case could be handed to Essex Police, ‘who came back very quickly and said “yes, of course it should go to the CPS” ’.
It nonetheless took one other yr for the case to come to courtroom, nevertheless, and it was solely after Chief Constable Garry Forsyth had formally apologised to Claire that she found the hyperlink between Curtis’s granddaughter and the investigating officers.
Claire was in courtroom on daily basis and admits she felt an enormous sense of aid when the jury returned a responsible verdict. ‘Finally. My husband had not done anything wrong.’
The Chief Constable’s assertion on the sorry affair acknowledges that Claire succeeded the place his officers had failed.
‘The failings in the investigation . . . undoubtedly compounded the pain, suffering and grief that Mr Fudge’s spouse and household have had to endure since his loss of life, and I’m genuinely sorry,’ he stated.
‘If it had not been for their relentless campaigning there is real potential this would have slipped by and justice would have been missed. I’m so happy that didn’t occur. We have reimbursed the price of their non-public investigation, which performed a key position within the matter being re-opened.’
Yet nobody has been disciplined for the police failings. Claire says one of many officers concerned has been promoted. Given that this entire case was about accountability, that rankles.
Mostly, she is weary and appears nicely conscious it is solely now she will be able to begin to grieve for her husband.
‘It should not have taken four years of me pushing to get to this point,’ she concludes. ‘I don’t know whether or not it was down to incompetence or laziness, however the price to the general public purse has been ridiculous. The price to me and my household has been unacceptable, too.
‘Ultimately, David was my best friend, my everything — you can’t put a worth on that.’