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Woman, 82, avoids jail after killing childhood friend, 80, in parking blunder

A pensioner who caused the death of her close friend by hitting the wrong pedal in her car has been handed a community order.

Patricia Tulip pulled up outside lifelong friend Joyce Nainby's home in Gosforth, Newcastle but left her automatic car in reverse instead of neutral and didn't apply the handbrake sufficiently.

As the 82-year-old driver and her 80-year-old passenger got out, the car began to roll backwards.

Tulip got back in to try to stop it, but instead of pressing the brake as she intended, she hit the accelerator, causing the car to shoot backwards.

Mrs Nainby, who was standing at the side of the car, was knocked over by her still partially open door.

She was knocked unconscious and never woke up, eventually dying from a head injury ten days later.


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In October Tulip pleaded guilty to causing Mrs Nainby's death by careless driving during an appearance at Newcastle Crown Court.

At her sentencing today Judge Amanda Rippon said: "As a result of a series of careless errors by you, your car very sadly became the implement responsible for your old and great friend's tragic death.

"Although she was 80, she was fit and she was active, and she had every reason to expect many more years with her family."

Prosecutors told how the pair had gone to school together around 70 years ago and had been best friends.

Describing how the loss had "completely devastated" the Nainby family, the judge said the victim's husband of 64 years died months after the incident without her by his side.

"There is no sentence that I can give that will bring back Joyce Nainby for her family, or for you," the judge told the defendant.

It was on September 18 last year that Tulip pulled up in a Skoda Roomster outside Mrs Nainby's home.

Summarising what happened, Judge Rippon said: "She parked the Skoda outside Mrs Nainby's address and they both got out.

"Mrs Tulip believed she had selected park but unintentionally selected reverse gear and failed to apply the handbrake sufficiently.

"The vehicle crept backwards and she re-entered the vehicle and unintentionally pressed the accelerator.

"This rear movement caused the vehicle to hit Mrs Naiby, it's suggested she was hit by the inside of the door and propelled backwards."

The passenger door was not closed properly as another passenger was going to get out of the back, so when the car moved sharply backwards, the door swung open and hit Mrs Nainby, the court heard.

In a statement that was read out in court, one of Mrs Nainby's three children, Geoffrey, said the incident had changed their family's lives forever.

"Put simply, she was not ready to go," he told court.

The statement added that Geoffrey Nainby's father, the victim's husband of six decades, was ill with both Parkinson's disease and cancer at the time of the crash, and died in July.

"Their final years could have been so different. Mum could and should have been here to look after dad in his final months," he said.

"Like so many others, we felt confident that terrible things only happen to other people, but then this happened to us."

Shaun Routledge, mitigating, said that the defendant, who wore a purple coat and mopped away tears during the hearing, had written a letter of condolence to her friend's family.

"I have not come across, in over 30 years, a set of facts or circumstances that are similar to these," he told the court.

In a statement issued following the sentencing, Mrs Nainby's family said they were disappointed by the defendant's failure to take responsibility earlier.

They said: "Whilst we accept that the events of that day were a tragic accident caused through Mrs Tulip's carelessness, every action and decision made by her beyond that date, has been made without any respect or consideration whatsoever for the feelings of our family.

"As a friend of our mum's, we didn't seek punishment for Mrs Tulip, all we ever wanted was an acceptance of responsibility.

"Maybe naively, we expected her to 'do the right thing' from the start but as that was not the case, we had no option other than to support a prosecution through the courts."

The statement said that, as a result of the delay between the incident and Tulip's sentencing, Mrs Nainby's husband had not been able to get closure before his death.

Tulip was banned from driving for three years – but the court heard that she gave up her licence immediately after the accident.

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