A DISABLED woman was killed when she was knocked from an unlit wheelchair she was driving late at night, an inquest heard yesterday.
The inquest into the death of wheelchair user Pamela Shields heard that the disabled mother-of-five was often seen driving in her unlit wheelchair back to her home in Park House Gardens, Sherburn, Durham City, from the city centre.
Mrs Shields was hit by a car as she travelled along an unlit stretch of the B1283 shortly after midnight on February 21.
She had been out on the Saturday night celebrating her birthday at the Last Orders pub in Gilesgate, Durham, with partner and carer David Mollon.
Cabbie Julie Watson told the hearing she had been driving a fare to Sherburn when she spotted Mr Mollon, whom she recognised.
She said: “I knew Pam would be nearby. It was a regular weekend occurrence and I would ring the police and warn them she was travelling back in the dark. The police would often come out and escort her back home by travelling slowly alongside her with their lights on.
“It was very dangerous riding along the road in an invalid carriage without any lights on and I once approached her about it but she told me to mind my own business.”
Ms Watson said she intended to telephone the police to warn them Mrs Shields was on the road again after dropping off her fare, but before she could do so she saw car headlights and realised there had been an accident. Mrs Shields had been hit by a Fiat Bravo driven by teenager Christopher Barfe, of South Street, Sherburn, and owned by his mother.
Mr Barfe declined to give evidence at the Chester-le-Street hearing yesterday, even though police said they had no intention of prosecuting him for his role in the tragedy.
Traffic officer PC Michael Bell said his inquiries showed Mr Barfe was driving within the 60mph speed limit with dipped headlights and would have had little or no chance of avoiding Mrs Shields.
The officer said he was aware that police had occasionally been called to escort Mrs Shields home, and that Mr Mollon had also expressed his concerns to her about driving along an unlit road.
He said toxicology tests showed her to have been twice the legal driving limit.
Deputy coroner Brenda Davison said Mrs Shields was responsible for putting herself in a “very unsafe situation”.
Verdict: accidental death.