March 29, 2013 6:18 pm

First Person: Patricia Machin

‘I forgave the driver who killed my husband’
Patricia Machin©Jack Latham

Patricia Machin wants the driver to 'go into the future healed. I knew he was broken-hearted'

I met Gerrard when I moved to Bournemouth in 1997 to be near some close friends; Gerrard was a fellow parishioner at their church. We were married on May 28 1998. Over the years you get to know each other so well. We seemed to love each other more and more until we became each other.

Gerrard always went for the papers at the same time, around eight o’clock. It was Friday December 2 2011, and I was waiting for his key in the latch. I thought, he’s been gone such a long time, something’s wrong. I put on my jacket – I remember which one, I can’t bear to wear it now – and went out to look for him. A policeman was closing off the road, saying it was a crime scene.

I saw an ambulance and there was a great deal of blood on the pavement. And then I saw Gerrard’s blue bag, lying on the ground.

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A policeman and the driver of the car were talking in a garden. The driver, whose name as I know now was Brian Williamson, was beside himself, saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” I put my hand on his arm, saying, “This was an accident.”

At the hospital, the consultant said, “Your husband can’t possibly survive his injuries.” Gerrard did pull through initially; he was in hospital for nine weeks, one day and 18 hours and I do see it as a time of grace, because I could sit by his bed and keep telling him I loved him. The last day was Saturday February 4 2012. It ended then.

There was a long period when I heard nothing and then I had a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service saying Brian was to be charged with causing death by careless driving. I was shocked when I read the wording of the letter, which said, in essence, “we realise that you may be disappointed that there is not a harsher charge”. I wouldn’t have thought that in a million years – and decided to write back and say so. You’re invited to meet the CPS chap if you want and, had I thought a more serious charge was appropriate, I’d have had the opportunity to tell him. But I was going in the opposite direction. I’d seen Brian on the day and I knew he was broken-hearted. We had stood there side by side – it was surreal really.

I didn’t go to the trial and I wasn’t going to go to the sentencing. But PC Ashley Farman, my family liaison officer, told me I was invited to write a letter to the driver. I wasn’t even going to do that but I thought, if he hears nothing, he’s left in limbo about how I feel. So I wrote a letter by hand, got in a taxi and went to the sentencing, and asked for it to be passed to Brian.

I had thought the letter was personal but the judge read it out. I didn’t take a copy but I think I remember the first line: “Today is a very important day for you and I will be in court to support you. Please do not see this tragedy as a stumbling block but a stepping stone to wisdom.” That now sounds a bit pious – I don’t want to come across as Saint Patricia – but what I meant was for him to see the whole episode as strengthening him into the future. I want him to go into the future healed. He’s a young man with a partner and three small children. He was crying uncontrollably. He apparently hadn’t expected to go home – he thought he’d go to prison. The judge did speak quite harshly to him and he still got the three months in prison, suspended, the two-year driving ban and the £1,000 fine.

After the sentencing, a journalist at the court said, “This is a very extraordinary story.” But I thought, why? It’s just how I am; my upbringing was one of never bear a grudge, make up immediately – both my mother and grandmother were like that. I haven’t got any children but Brian is somebody’s son. I belong to two churches and I find their teaching easy to accept. Gerrard was also loyal to the teaching of the church. He was a wonderful, wonderful man and I love to talk about what his love gave me in strength. I can sum it all up in very few words: love is everything, it’s all about love.

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