“A YOUNG girl cyclist died”. How simply said for someone who did not know Denisa Perinova, but what does it mean for people who knew her and mainly what does it mean for her closest ones, for us her parents, her young brother, grandparents, boyfriend and his family, other friends. We should not forget about her, the biggest victim of this tragic event.
We are talking about Denisa, a 21-year-old girl who had all her adult life ahead.
Denisa started her life, her adult life, abroad. We supervised her development from a distance, coming several times to see her in England and Denisa travelled to see us at home.
We were together quite often and we had seen her settled and very happy in England. Denisa became independent and we realised that our task as parents was over.
On July 15, 2012 the darkness came into our lives. We got a message that Denisa had had a very serious accident while cycling with Ben Pontin, her boyfriend. We immediately came to the UK, spending all our time in the hospital waiting for a miracle. Unfortunately, the miracle did not come.
On July 22 in the morning we were told that Denisa, our beautiful daughter, was passing away. Denisa died that evening. We were with her that last day, talking to her, kissing her, seeing her dying, and it was devastating.
Our plans in the not too distant future had been her wedding and to become grandparents, to see in Denisa’s eyes plenty of joy and happiness, bringing her children up with the same care as she was brought up.
- Instead of preparing a wedding, we had to arrange her funeral.
- Instead of going to her wedding, we had to repatriate her body back to her home country.
- Instead of choosing a dress for Denisa’s wedding, we had to choose the dress to put on her body in the coffin.
- Instead of having a wedding party, we had a funeral party.
- Instead of having grandchildren, we just have some photos, memories and mainly emptiness in our souls.
Our plans and reality are like days and nights, like brightness and eclipse. Our family was happy until July 15, 2012. Our lives have not been the same since that fateful day.
The question is what did actually happen on the road that day?
First of all, our daughter was an experienced and competent cyclist, having cycled since a very early age in the Czech Republic around our local towns and villages.
In the UK she passed her driving test which, we understand, contains a written examination with regards to the law of the UK relating to road usage and road safety. She also owned a car and drove every day to work and to other destinations nearby, including Luton airport to collect her mother. She was used to driving on the left-hand side of the road.
But let us go back to the Middle Assendon/Stonor road.
The facts are straightforward as given in evidence by the car driver herself. Dr Helen Measures was driving a Mini along the Middle Assendon to Stonor road. She said she usually drove on that road at a speed of between 45mph and 50mph, although she was unsure of her exact speed at that time.
She had overtaken other cyclists and knew the road to be one used frequently by cyclists, particularly on a sunny Sunday morning.
As she was approaching a bend in the road, she saw two cyclists riding in the same direction as her.
She said that she looked ahead and did not see anything approaching. She gave evidence to the judge that if she had seen any cyclist approaching she would not have commenced an overtaking manoeuvre. She further stated that she could not see 100 per cent of the road ahead when she commenced overtaking.
Having slowed to around 30mph, she allowed plenty of room to overtake the cyclists. She “did not see” the cyclists coming the other way and was still overtaking when she was “surprised” to see them.
Having seen the first cyclist, she “decided to proceed straight ahead”. The first cyclist, Ben Pontin, managed to avoid the oncoming car by braking and taking evasive action but the driver did not see the second cyclist, Denisa, until the cyclist fell into her line of travel.
The driver confirmed she was wholly or partially in the other carriageway and still conducting her overtaking when the accident involving the second cyclist, Denisa, happened, which resulted in her death from multiple injuries. These are the facts. A great deal of speculation as to what may have may have happened before, during and after the incident was brought up by the defence lawyer but Denisa could not give the key evidence.
What we do know is that Denisa was in her own lane on her side of the road and was entitled to be there.
The oncoming driver was on the wrong side of the road closing in on Denisa as she overtook the other cyclists. She estimated she was travelling at around 30mph at the time.
The car driver confirmed that she drove her car on the wrong side of the road. She answered the judge’s simple question that had she seen the two cyclists coming towards her she would not have attempted to overtake the other two cyclists. Isn’t this a clear message confirming the risky manoeuvre she made?
Dr Measures was introduced as a cancer specialist with a high moral profile. There were 10 or 12 references read to the court telling us how careful she is going to church every week.
None of these was from either experts on traffic matters or people who were present at the incident.
We find it hard to understand why this high moral person apparently has not had the courage nor courtesy to contact us in these desperately dark times to express at least her sorrow at these tragic events.
Although the verdict was not guilty, Dr Measures and her partner, who was in the passenger seat and not called as a witness, will have to live with this tragedy, as will we and all others involved. We trust their consciences can live with this.
In his summing up, the judge laid great emphasis as to Dr Measures’ character. Why? At no stage were we permitted to give evidence as to the character of our daughter — even to confirm her previous cycling experience.
The whole justice process was unsatisfactory: 15 months between Denisa’s death and the trial; three different judges at different times; disputes over expert witness costs and legal aid given to the defendant; delays while the defence lawyer received paternity leave and the trial suspended for one morning while that child was being registered; a jury mix of 10 women and two men; the discourtesy shown to our daughter’s memory.
Due to Denisa and her personality we had the opportunity to meet amazing people in England, Denisa’s colleagues and other friends, Miha and her boyfriend Ady, Dita, who helped us a lot when Denisa was in the hospital and at court and in other matters.
A special thank-you to Alan Pontin and his family. Thank you very much, Ben. You had made our Denisa happy in the last months of her life. Thank you,Tom, for encouraging us in these desperate times of our lives.
Thank you, Alan and Carol, for everything you have done for us in England. We will never forget it.
We wish to thank so many people in Henley for their massive support in these tragic times, expressing their sympathy at our loss.
Also the support we and Denisa received from the police, the ambulance service and the dedicated medical service.
Denisa, we all miss you. You did not do anything wrong.
Denisa would have been 23 on October 2. The driver was discharged for causing death by careless driving on her birthday. The verdict was the worst possible present.
The world seems to be upside down.