Coroner criticises Gwent Police for probe after woman was run over by boyfriend

INQUEST: Robert Wallace at the hearing

INQUEST: Robert Wallace at the hearing

First published in Gwent news
Last updated

A CORONER has criticised Gwent Police for failures in their investigation into how a woman was run over by her partner who was driving while over the limit, writes ALI KEFFORD.

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 in Risca.

Four years later 38-year-old Miss Southern, who lived in Woodfield Road, Winchester, died from multiple organ failure and pneumonia. A post-mortem examination 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.

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.”

A Gwent Police spokeswoman said: “Gwent Police carried out an investigation following this incident which has concluded.  As a consequence of comments made at the conclusion of the inquest, Gwent Police will be making contact with the Coroner.”

Comments (8)

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1:35pm Wed 20 Aug 14

Lord Palmerstone says...

Same as the report in the Southern Echo. Doesn't say what Miss Southern said about what happened, which makes it completely unhelpful.
Same as the report in the Southern Echo. Doesn't say what Miss Southern said about what happened, which makes it completely unhelpful. Lord Palmerstone
  • Score: 8

4:13pm Wed 20 Aug 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

Lord Palmerstone
It is an inquest, which obviously cannot hear evidence from the deceased.
Lord Palmerstone It is an inquest, which obviously cannot hear evidence from the deceased. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: -12

4:23pm Wed 20 Aug 14

Lord Palmerstone says...

Kevin Ward - Editor wrote:
Lord Palmerstone
It is an inquest, which obviously cannot hear evidence from the deceased.
Kevin. The poor lady lived for 4 years after the incident,("Four years later 38-year-old Miss Southern, who lived in Woodfield Road, Winchester, died from multiple organ failure and pneumonia)" suffering the effects of it and was not in a persistent vegetative state. She was able to get around and , unsurprisingly, suffered from depression. Clearly she must have been asked what happened although I concede she may have had no memory of the events immediately prior to the crushing.
[quote][p][bold]Kevin Ward - Editor[/bold] wrote: Lord Palmerstone It is an inquest, which obviously cannot hear evidence from the deceased.[/p][/quote]Kevin. The poor lady lived for 4 years after the incident,("Four years later 38-year-old Miss Southern, who lived in Woodfield Road, Winchester, died from multiple organ failure and pneumonia)" suffering the effects of it and was not in a persistent vegetative state. She was able to get around and , unsurprisingly, suffered from depression. Clearly she must have been asked what happened although I concede she may have had no memory of the events immediately prior to the crushing. Lord Palmerstone
  • Score: 16

10:30pm Wed 20 Aug 14

Jonnytrouble says...

Nice one Lord Palmerstone !
As for Mr Wallace sounds like a nice person
Nice one Lord Palmerstone ! As for Mr Wallace sounds like a nice person Jonnytrouble
  • Score: 2

7:11am Thu 21 Aug 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

Thanks Lord P.
I'm aware of the circumstances of the case. However, this was an inquest not a criminal trial. It would not hear historical evidence from the deceased, though the police investigation would be available to the coroner.
Thanks Lord P. I'm aware of the circumstances of the case. However, this was an inquest not a criminal trial. It would not hear historical evidence from the deceased, though the police investigation would be available to the coroner. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: 0

8:49am Thu 21 Aug 14

Lord Palmerstone says...

Thomson Snell & Passmore's work on the subject suggests you're wrong Kevin-since what Miss Southern said in any statement admissible in evidence in a criminal court (a fortiori a non-criminal one) is admissible at the coroner's discretion, unless challenged etc. And what she may have said would tend to be germane to the issue.
So what would be really interesting to have been reported is whether there was a challenge and if so from whom. One has to bear in mind that a murder prosecution can be launched if death occurs at any time. The 12 months and a day rule is gone.
Thomson Snell & Passmore's work on the subject suggests you're wrong Kevin-since what Miss Southern said in any statement admissible in evidence in a criminal court (a fortiori a non-criminal one) is admissible at the coroner's discretion, unless challenged etc. And what she may have said would tend to be germane to the issue. So what would be really interesting to have been reported is whether there was a challenge and if so from whom. One has to bear in mind that a murder prosecution can be launched if death occurs at any time. The 12 months and a day rule is gone. Lord Palmerstone
  • Score: 1

9:31am Thu 21 Aug 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

The coroner reviewed the police investigation. His concerns about it were relayed in his narrative verdict. No evidence or statements from it were relayed in open court.
The coroner reviewed the police investigation. His concerns about it were relayed in his narrative verdict. No evidence or statements from it were relayed in open court. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: 0

4:24pm Thu 21 Aug 14

Jak777 says...

Classic gwent police. They never disapoint. I suppose they're used to ignoring evidence, after all its not as if thats they're job..Bless them at least they dress them nicely.
Classic gwent police. They never disapoint. I suppose they're used to ignoring evidence, after all its not as if thats they're job..Bless them at least they dress them nicely. Jak777
  • Score: -1
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