A CORONER has criticised police for failures in their investigation into how a woman was run over by her partner who was driving while over the limit.
Claire Southern was left severely disabled having suffered horrific injuries to her back and liver after Robert Wallace drove the front wheels of his van over her outside their home.
Four years later 38-year-old Miss Southern, who lived in Woodfield Road, Winchester, died from multiple organ failure and pneumonia. A post-mortem found the injuries she sustained had contributed to her death on June 7 last year.
The inquest in Winchester yesterday heard how Gwent police launched an investigation following the accident on July 4, 2009, when Miss Southern and Mr Wallace had spent the day shopping and visiting numerous pubs near their home in Newport, South Wales.
Giving evidence, Mr Wallace – who had been forced to attend the hearing by coroner Grahame Short - said his then girlfriend had left a pub near their home in a mood.
When he returned to the bungalow they shared, he failed to spot her lying in the path of his car – blaming the steep zig-zag driveway outside the house and the fact Miss Southern was wearing brown clothing.
Recalling the night, he told the court: “I stopped immediately. I initially thought I’d driven over a log.
“I saw her head and chest. I ran to the house and dialled 999.
“All I can say is that I am sorry.”
The hearing was told how police leading the inquiry doubted “the veracity of information given by Mr Wallace” who was later charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
However, the case against him was later dropped and he was instead prosecuted for drink driving, for which he lost his licence for 16 months and paid £850 in costs.
Coroner Grahame Short told the court that evidence from a police reconstruction of the day Wallace ran over Miss Southern had been called into question by defence legal experts.
He said: “The report from Gwent Police indicates to me a less than adequate investigation.
“Regardless of whether criminal proceedings were going to have been going ahead, it should have been possible to have the truth, given the scientific evidence.”
Mr Wallace admitted during the inquest that their two year relationship had a history of violence for which he had previously been cautioned by Gwent police.
Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Short said it was hard to understand how Wallace came to run Miss Southern over, but that evidence pointed to the fact she had already been lying down when he hit her.
“It’s the case that Mr Wallace says – and I have to accept – that he didn’t see Claire and this was not a deliberate act.
“I do believe that there was an argument – the extent of that argument I think we will never know.”