Inquest hears of elderly Ilford couple’s death in collision with lorry

A lorry driver whose vehicle hit and killed an elderly couple from Ilford was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, an inquest has revealed.

And traffic said to have been caused by Redbridge Council’s ‘Quiet Streets’ scheme and blamed for the crash was not mentioned at the hearing on Friday.

George and Beryl Smout, of Kenwood Gardens, Ilford, died after they were in collision with a lorry while crossing Cranbrook Road, Ilford, on September 24.

Mrs Smout, 81, died at the scene after being caught under the wheels, while her husband, 85, died at the Royal London Hospital a day later.

A statement from the Smouts’ family, read out at their inquest at Walthamstow Coroners’ Court on June 18, said they “lived life to the full”.

The couple’s daughter-in-law Lisa, said: “George was a massive golfer even at his age and played three times a week.

“They gave up their time for the League of Friends at King George Hospital for many years and were very well respected in the community and much-loved.

“They were always out and about, had recently booked two holidays and were looking forward to Christmas. They will be greatly missed.”

A police report stated the lorry was caught in traffic and came to rest “covering the crossing” when Mr and Mrs Smout decided to cross in front of it, although the lights were still green for drivers.

The driver, Christopher Anderson, began to drive when traffic moved forward, later telling police he had been unable to see the couple despite performing all the necessary checks.

In a statement to police he said he stopped and got out of the lorry when another driver sounded his horn at him and he noticed “people were looking at the side of the vehicle”.

He said: “I was horrified to see a woman under my wheel and a man beside her on the floor. My first instinct was to run back into my cab and reverse off her.”

Clive Austin, a forensic collision investigator for the Metropolitan Police, concluded it was “plausible” that Mr Anderson “conducted all of the checks required of him” without spotting the couple.

He said: “Mr Anderson could have stopped in an area where he was not blocking the pedestrian crossing. However, a number of vehicles did the same prior to the collision.

“He would have had an opportunity to see the couple, but it’s plausible that he checked his mirror prior to them entering his field of view.”

The collision sparked an argument among Redbridge councillors after Cllr Ruth Clark (Con, Fairlop), who actually witnessed the accident, blamed a “backlog of traffic” caused by the council’s ‘Quiet Streets’ scheme.

Cllr Clark was criticised by Labour councillors and MP Wes Streeting after alleging the fatal accident was a result of road restrictions introduced by Redbridge Council.

Quiet Streets, which saw roads closed to non-residential traffic, was introduced on September 14 and scrapped on October 16 due to its unpopularity.

On the day of the accident, MP Streeting tweeted asking people not to speculate, adding: “Particularly Conservative councillors who seem to have lost a sense of basic decency”.

At a meeting in November, Cllr Clark defended her statements, telling a meeting of the full council: “It’s no good protesting to me that it had nothing to do with it.

“I was present and, in my opinion, it was a direct result of traffic build-up from the scheme.”

Neither traffic levels nor the Quiet Streets scheme were mentioned at the inquest.

The deaths of George and Beryl Smout were recorded as the result of a “road traffic collision”.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter