Wigan great-grandmother 'unlikely' to have fallen ill before being hit by car - coroner

A great-grandmother who died after being hit by a neighbour’s car was unlikely to have suffered a “medical episode” in the moments before, a coroner ruled.

Alice Gilchrist, 86, suffered “unsurvivable” injuries in the collision on Vicarage Lane, Ashton, on July 25, 2019.

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She was hit by a Volvo car driven by Lorraine Lunt, who had reversed off her drive to go to a chemist.

Alice Gilchrist

Today, Mrs Lunt told Bolton Coroner’s Court she did not see Mrs Gilchrist as she reversed and believes she was already lying in the road when her car hit her.

She suggested Mrs Gilchrist may have had a "medical episode" or fainted on the hot summer day.

But after hearing all the evidence, senior coroner Timothy Brennand said: “Whilst technically possible, it remains, in my judgement, unlikely that she was to suffer any form of medical episode and indeed any form of accidental fall.”

The inquest heard Mrs Gilchrist, who lived on Vicarage Road, was walking to a hairdresser, as she did every Thursday.

Alice Gilchrist

Mrs Lunt got into her car at 11.10am, checked her mirrors before setting off and paused again as she reversed.

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She said: "After checking my mirrors thoroughly, as I always do, I reversed absolutely normally. Nothing happened, there was no bump, there was no sound. I turned the car to the left, because I wanted to go left, and it wouldn't move."

Mrs Lunt said she initially thought her car was in the wrong gear or the handbrake was on, before wondering if there was a fault with the clutch.

She decided to try to get her car out of the road but it would not move.

Alice Gilchrist had lived on Vicarage Road in Ashton for many years
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"Because I thought the clutch was faulty, I was trying to make it move forward," she said.

It was only when another driver started waving their arms at her and mouthing "no, no, no" that she got out of the car, she said, and found Mrs Gilchrist.

She said: "Mrs Gilchrist was lying unconscious in the road and it was absolutely nothing to do with me. I don't know whether she had a medical episode, I don't know whether heat got to her, but it was nothing to do with me."

Mrs Lunt denied driving over Mrs Gilchrist.

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Alice Gilchrist

When interviewed by police later that day, she said reverse sensors in her car had not alerted her to anyone being there.

She also said she thought she might have hit a box or rubbish in the road.

Another driver, Carol Wildman, said in a statement that she saw the Volvo moving forward like it was trying to drive over someone.

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She said: "All sorts was running through my head. Was this person being murdered?"

As she got closer she saw Mrs Gilchrist in the road and waved to stop the driver. Mrs Lunt got out of the car and screamed, she said.

Passers-by tended to Mrs Gilchrist and held her hand, before paramedics arrived and she was rushed to Wigan Infirmary.

Medics tried to save her but her injuries were too severe, and she was pronounced dead at 12.25pm.

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Home Office-registered forensic pathologist Dr Philip Lumb found Mrs Gilchrist died from multiple injuries.

This included "very severe" fractures to her rib cage, which pierced her lungs, extensive fractures to her pelvis and hip, a fracture to her right shin and a dislocated and fractured shoulder. Some of these were described as "crush-type" injuries.

What was believed to be a tyre mark was also found on her shoulder.

Dr Lumb said while there was no evidence Mrs Gilchrist had a cardiac arrest or stroke, he could not rule out another "medical episode" such as fainting - though she had no medical history of fainting.

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Police investigated Mrs Gilchrist's death and Mrs Lunt was charged with causing death by careless driving. She was found guilty, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Det Con Edward Lister, forensic collision reconstruction investigator for Greater Manchester Police, spoke about CCTV footage gathered during inquiries.

He said: "Based on the timings on the CCTV and when she appears in the road, it looks like she was most likely pushed to the floor."

He thought the "push" was from the car, but said he could not exclude that Mrs Gilchrist was "startled" by the car reversing and moved away from it.

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Det Con Lister said the CCTV footage showed the car "rise up" which he described as being "consistent" with travelling over an object, ie Mrs Gilchrist.

The car then drove forwards four times as Mrs Lunt tried to move it, he said.

Investigations revealed Mrs Lunt's view would have been obscured by foliage as she reversed off the drive.

No mechanical defects were found with the car and the reverse sensors worked, but would not have detected someone lying on the ground.

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Concluding the hearing, Mr Brennand said he found some of Mrs Lunt’s evidence to be “unsatisfactory” and her assertion that Mrs Gilchrist had an medical episode could have been “wishful thinking”.

He said: “What is clear to me, in the context of the case, is she didn’t get into her car and she didn’t set off that day intending to kill somebody.”

Mr Brennand recorded that Mrs Gilchrist died in a road traffic collision.

Afterwards, her daughter Julie Goulding-Gast welcomed the result of the inquest.

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She said: “I’m glad we fought on. I felt like it wasn’t right to say Mum could have possibly had a medical episode. He [Mr Brennand] has done a brilliant job.”

She said the family was still coming to terms with what happened and had only last week put her mother’s ashes to rest.

They are now looking to bring a civil suit for personal injury to Mrs Gilchrist and financial loss to beneficiaries.

Mrs Goulding-Gast remembered a “great mum”, who loved spending time with her family, chatting to friends and visiting cafes in Ashton.