Read Sarah Harrison’s heartbreaking tribute to her mother, Mary, who was killed by two boy-racers. We helped secure an exclusive deal with Chat magazine.
Sitting in the garden on a warm summer’s day, music blared from the ghetto blaster. I smiled as my Mum Mary sprung onto her feet. ‘Like a bat out of hell I’ll be gone when the morning comes…’ she crooned. ‘C’mon kids! sing with me!’ she boomed.
Me, my sister Sam and brothers Ben and David giggled. I was a teenager and Mum definitely knew how to let her hair down. She’d been a single mum since Ben was a baby but we wanted for nothing. Five of us were crammed into a three-bed semi so Mum slept in the box room.
A practical joker, an amazing cook, and a heart of gold. Mum was the full package. Just then, a voice called out from behind the garden fence. ‘Sure looks like you’re all having fun.’ It was Mum’s best friend Linda whose house backed onto ours. She had kids too.
Linda was Ben’s godmother and Mum’s partner in mischief. We went on holiday together and on Sundays, Mum and Linda took it in turns to cook. I can still remember the delicious smell of Mum’s home made quiches hanging in the air.
Pulling up a garden chair for one of their mammoth chats, Mum turned to us. ‘Why don’t you go for some sweets’ she said, handing us a couple of coins each. ‘But remember the important rule…’ Instantly, we knew what she meant. Our house on Mandale Road in Bradford was a rat run with cars using it as a cut through. The 30mph speed limit was pointless. It terrified mum.
Mine and Sarah’s school was just across the road but she always made sure she helped us cross. So when a boy in Ben’s class was hit by a car, school started a road safety petition. ‘Every signature helps,’ Mum said, adding her name to the list. ‘Let’s hope it makes a difference.’
The years passed and at 19, I moved in with my hubby, Steve Harrison. Three years on, we moved just around the corner from Mum. It was September 2002 when I gave birth to a son, Jordan, followed by Grace four years later. Mum adored her grandkids, and when our twins Sophie and Olivia came along, she was over the moon. What with my three, and Sam’s three boys, Mum was thrilled to bits.
With my hands full, Mum would help me at the supermarket every Tuesday. She was as proud as punch when people stopped to admire the girls. ‘They’re my princesses,’ she’d beam, ruffling their hair. So when Grace started full-time school, the one across from mum was the nearest.
One day, when Grace was seven, she burst through the door. ‘My picture is on the school gates mum!’ she said, excitedly. ‘That’s fantastic sweetheart,’ I smiled. Grace had drawn her own road safety poster asking people not to park on the zig-zag lines. She’d coloured it in beautifully.
It had been made into a sign, and put on the school gates. Grace was delighted. ‘Guess what I can see from my window,’ mum teased later. Grace beamed as mum gave her an enormous hug. Mum was in her mid forties when she introduced us to her boyfriend, Alan Jones. She was working as a cook in a pub which belonged to Alan. I’d never seen her so happy, she lost weight, and looked incredible.
It was one day in Autumn 2012 when mum had exciting news. ‘Me and Alan have found a bungalow on a nice quiet street,’ she explained. ‘It needs work, but there’s no busy road to cross.’ It meant leaving our family home, but the plan was that Ben would move in once Mum was settled. Everything was in place.
On April 20, 2013, mum’s best laid plans fell to pieces. It began like every other Saturday morning. Mum called by to check on Sophie who had fallen and hurt herself the day before. ‘I’ll see you later love,’ she said. It was Linda’s birthday and Mum was spending the afternoon at her house. I smiled as she waved goodbye, imagining the fun they’d have together.
A few hours later, I was watching the twins play in the garden when the phone rang. It was another of mum’s friends who said there was a commotion on mum’s road. Dialling mum’s mobile, it went to answer phone. ‘That’s strange,’ I thought, while Steve headed to mum’s street. ‘Mum always answered her phone…’
I scooped up the twins and strapped them into their double buggy. ‘Let’s go see nana shall we,’ I smiled, my mind spinning. Then I bumped into Steve at the corner of our road. His face was drip white and behind him I could see a police cordon, then an ambulance.
‘It’s your Mum,’ Steve said, shaking.
Pushing past him, a police officer stopped me in my tracks. I collapsed on the pavement as he explained… Mum was dead.
She’d been killed just metres from her front door, after taking a taxi home from Linda’s. ‘You need to let me go to her,’ I sobbed hysterically. Back home, I was numb as I waited for Sam, Ben and David to arrive. The next few hours passed in a blurry haze as police tried to piece together exactly what had happened. We guessed she’d been hit by a car, but It’d be months before we knew the whole truth.
‘I need to shut mum’s blinds,’ I told Steve that night, while he broke the awful news to the kids. Walking into her kitchen, I broke down. Salmon and new potatoes which Mum had prepared for her supper were untouched on the cooker top, and her trainers were in the bathroom. It seemed bitterly unfair.
The weeks passed in slow motion as charges were brought against the two men responsible. In December 2013, Joseph Robinson, 23, and Thomas Healey, 21, appeared at Bradford Crown Court. Robinson pleased guilty, but listening to the evidence during Healey’s two-week trial was heartbreaking.
Mum was being dropped at home by a minicab when it was hit by a BMW car. Robinson was behind the wheel, racing Healey at speeds of upto 70mph. The pair were friends.
Mum, who had just taken off her seatbelt, was thrown through the window of the minicab and into the road, killing her instantly. The mini cab then spun, and hit mum, who was on the ground. She was still holding her taxi fare when help arrived. To add to our grief, the jury heard how Healey stopped briefly before fleeing the scene. He even tried to claim he’d been nothing more than a witness.
Thankfully, the jurors refused to believe his pack of lies, and he was given a six-year prison sentence for dangerous driving. Robinson pleaded guilty to the same charge and was jailed for five years and three months. Judge John Potter told the court their lack of care for other people “amounted to almost indescribable selfishness”.
Neither men showed a drop of remorse, cocky and arrogant as they were taken to the cells. It’s been 15 months since we lost mum, and it still hasn’t quite sunk in. The kids miss her terribly and each time I pass Grace’s sign on the school gates, the pain deepens. Since losing mum, 10,000 pounds has been spent on speed bumps and traffic islands along the road where she was killed. It’s too late for mum, but it does bring some comfort knowing her death wasn’t in vain. She made a difference.