Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009
Anatomy of a crash

The pain of Shaun's death is still keenly felt by Anji and Shaun's family

In the last of four articles examining the anatomy of a fatal road crash, Adrian Brown looks at the lasting impact on Shaun Henderson's family after his death at the hands of a drunk driver.

While Pc Moody comforted Anji, crash investigation officer Pc Ward spent several hours scouring the crash scene for clues as to what happened.

This is an account of a single fatal road crash. Each chapter follows a stage of the incident.

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Having first got a sense of how the van and the scooter were positioned when they collided, he set about looking for clues that would explain what had happened.

Lying flat on his front, he closely scanned the road surface for scrapes and tyre marks. He also searched for any crash debris that could tell him whether for example, Shaun's lights were on at the time of the collision.


Since it had been raining, finding skid marks was difficult. But where Shaun's scooter pitched onto its side after braking, there were marks on the road. Pc Ward also found tiny pieces of the filament from the scooter's headlamp which had smashed on impact. These were all bagged up, numbered and sent off for analysis at a forensic laboratory.

The results of lab tests on these and other evidence was presented in the subsequent court trial to prove Shaun had been riding with his headlamps on at the time of the crash, a crucial part of the case against the van driver.

By midnight, the driver who caused the crash that killed Shaun had been formally interviewed with a solicitor present and bailed. He was later charged with causing death by careless driving whilst over the prescribed limit.

By then Anji was at home but couldn't sleep. The next day was to be no less overwhelming.

"I was numb, speaking to Shaun's mum and relatives, my relatives, and friends. I must have been on the phone all day."

Shaun's artwork
Anji hopes to stage an exhibition of Shaun's artwork

Pc Moody came round to see Anji and told her more about the accident and that the driver had been bailed for drink driving.

"When I heard that I was just devastated. Absolutely devastated. You start to think, why, why? Why Shaun? Why did he have to be there at that time? It was very difficult to hear."

Shaun's two funerals in Stevenage and in Scotland, where he was born, proved fitting tributes to a popular and gifted man, but for Anji the loss continues to be a challenge, nearly three years on from his death.

"It's strange," she says, "but there are some days when I feel exhilarated. It's when I've achieved something in the day, I've managed to go to work, or get the boys to school.

"Sadly, I don't remember much about Reilly's first year. It was all such a blur. There were days when I felt I was coping. There were days when I wasn't coping. And it's still very much like that now.

"I had two children under the age of two on my own. Suddenly, I had to do everything and that's a very hard lesson to learn when you had someone who was there all the time and wanted to be there.

"I have to financially support them, physically support them, emotionally support them. I have to keep on top of everything, their schooling, making sure that they get what they need, managing the house, decorating the house. I have to do everything. It's exhausting.

Shuan's children were both under two years old
Both of Shaun's children with Anji were under two years at the time he died

"But I look at them and I just think, 'You are my life'. I remember thinking the next day after Shaun died, looking at them and thinking: 'That's it. They've got me. They haven't got anyone else.' I have to be well. I can't lie in bed. I can't rest. I have to get up. I want to go to bed. I want to sleep. I can't do that.

"That's what's been taken away from me. It's not just about losing that person that you love. It's about your life being completely toppled upside down and having to deal with that massive, massive drastic change."

Anji is lucky that her immediate and extended family support her. But she also relies heavily on a counsellor and other support from specialist charities that help those coping with bereavement.

She also finds comfort in Shaun's writings and his art work that is displayed on the walls of her home.

"When we were living apart, Shaun used to write me letters. Always handwritten, on a postcard, or a bit of paper. I have them all in a box. They are very precious to me. Sometimes I do read through them.

"It's very painful to do that but it's also a reminder of just how much in love we were. I'm glad I have them, that they're there and also for the children. It says a lot about him. They're just so intense but in a very, very beautiful way. They were so poetic. He just swept me off my feet. There are really poignant things in there."

A box containing Shaun's letters
The box containing Shaun's letters to Anji

Of the driver who killed Shaun, she has tried to shut him out of her thoughts.

"I made a decision, that I don't want him to take up my time, my energy. If I allow that to happen, which it has done at times, it's very bitter and I am very, very angry," she says. "I can't allow anger to show in front of my children. We can't help our emotions but I am just numb."

The van driver received a two-year prison sentence for his role in causing the crash. The court case was traumatic for Anji and Shaun's family, including his two other children, Chris, who was 16 at the time he died, and Eve, who was 12.

It reopened memories of the crash and the justice system felt confusing and insensitive.

"The driver was given the maximum sentence under the law which felt like it was nothing," she says. "How can you justify someone's life being taken for a minimal sentence for two years when he only served 12 months."

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