'It all happened very quickly' - Police officer recalls moment van struck missing woman
PUBLISHED: 13:32 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 17 October 2018
A police officer has recalled the moment a constabulary van struck a missing woman they were searching for, at an inquest into her death.
An inquest is ongoing into the death of Helen Loveday, 52, who was hit by a police van while walking down Wymondham Road in Hethel at around 10.20pm on July 27 last year.
She was airlifted to hospital but died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge two days later.
On Tuesday, the inquest, held at Norfolk Coroner’s Court in Norwich, heard from PC Louise Hamilton-Rout, who was in the van which struck Ms Loveday, who lived in Leicestershire but was staying with her sister in Wreningham.
She said she and PC Stephen Banes, who was driving the van, had been at jobs nearby, and were due to head back to the police headquarters in Wymondham when the call for a concern for the safety of a female came over.
“Obviously when we get the report for a concern for safety we want to get as many units there as possible,” she said. “I knew if we were quite close I should offer us to go and assist.”
She said the dispatcher said Ms Loveday’s sister Rachel Hurn had been very distressed on the call, making it difficult to get all the necessary information, but that she said her sister had left “wanting to kill herself or harm herself”.
The pair decided to drive to Ms Hurn’s home for more information.
With blue lights on, the van overtook two cars.
PC Hamilton-Rout said: “I remember looking at the second vehicle we overtook and looking in my rear side mirror to be sure we had passed them, and when I looked up I saw the female to the near side.
“A person came towards us and I felt the brakes of the vehicle. All I remember seeing was the really light trousers. It all happened very quickly.”
A visibly emotional PC Hamilton-Rout, who at one point was comforted by the family while she gave evidence, said she perceived the van’s speed to be appropriate, and said conditions were dry, though the road was unlit.
She said Ms Loveday appeared to be walking very quickly, and seemed to move from the verge to the middle of the road as they approached.
“I recall PC Banes saying it’s her’ and the brakes came on,” she said.
On Monday, the inquest heard that several motorists had described seeing a person walking in the road, with one driver witnessing the van come “shuddering to a halt” before the driver got out and put his hands on his head.
The inquest, listed for five days, continues.