Outwell man, 84, describes to inquest the moment he put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake, accidentally killing his wife

The fire was started deliberately, say police

The fire was started deliberately, say police - Credit: Archant

A grieving widower told an inquest how he accidently ran over his wife in her car outside the home they shared in a Fenland village.

Thomas Maycroft, 84, told the inquest in King’s Lynn yesterday that his wife Maureen, 69, had got out of the car, which she had left in reverse, and asked him to get in and put his foot on the brake pedal.

He said she wanted to know whether the brake lights were working. She stood behind the car to check, but instead of pressing the brake pedal, he pressed the accelerator.

Neighbours described seeing the car “fly” backwards, run over Mrs Maycroft, and drag her underneath the car, until it came to a stop.

She suffered severe internal injuries in the accident, which happened at about 10.25am on March 5 last year, and died at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge six days later.


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Mr Maycroft, from Suttons Close, Outwell, near Wisbech, said it was the first time he had driven the automatic car, which his wife always drove, and he did not know where the pedals were.

He only had a provisional licence to drive a car, although he had a full motorcycle driving licence.

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In a statement, neighbour Mark Athier said he was in the lounge watching television when he heard a loud screaming coming from outside.

He said: “A woman was screaming ‘Get it off me’. The car had reversed through the fence into my backgarden and collided with my shed. I kept hearing the woman scream ‘Get it off me’. She was trapped under the car. Her head was nearside to the car and her legs were sticking out.”

He added he could see a man with glasses on sitting in the driver’s seat of the car with the engine running.

“He was in pieces, crying and shaking. The woman under the car was still screaming. The ambulance turned up and paramedics treated her. The fire brigade then arrived and used air bags to lift the car. The driver was very shaken, and was saying ‘I did not mean to hurt her. The car just ran away from me’.”

Another neighbour, Ruth Shaw said in a statement that she also heard screaming.

“I saw the car fly backwards across the grass. Someone said that Thomas had just run over Maureen.

“Maureen was under the car. I could see her foot sticking out. He was saying that he’d never been in a car like this before, and he had not known what to do. He said, ‘I would not hurt her for the world. I love her’.”

Mr Maycroft told the inquest they had been married for two years and had a happy marriage.

He said his wife owned the Peugeot 307 car, which she parked in the cul-de-sac near their home.

Every Wednesday she took the car to go shopping with her sister, and she intended to do this on March 5 last year, he said.

He said: “She asked me to get in the car so she could see if the rear brake lights worked. I was backing the car and it shot off.

“I did not know where the pedals were in the car. I put my foot down to where I thought the brake pedal was, then the car went backwards, fairly fast.”

The cause of death was given as hypoxic brain injury due to cardiac arrest due to trauma.

Crash investigator Pc Paul McKay said the car’s brake lights were working when examined.

He said no witnesses had seen Mr Maycroft get in the car or heard the subsequent conversation between husband and wife.

He said that: “She went under the car and was dragged along until it stopped.”

He said Mr Maycroft had accidently pressed the accelerating pedal rather than the brake pedal, and added that his wife’s decision to stand behind the car was a “poor one”. No police proceedings were brought against Mr Maycroft.

Norfolk coroner Jacqueline Lake’s conclusion was accidental death. She added: “It’s clear it was a tragic accident which might not have happened.”

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