Husband of young mother mown down by pensioner in West Hampstead launches campaign against ‘unfit’ elderly drivers
PUBLISHED: 12:48 09 November 2015 | UPDATED: 14:12 09 November 2015
A widower is calling for the compulsory retesting of elderly motorists – three years after his wife was killed by an 85-year-old driver who narrowly missed their two-year-old son.
As Ben Brooks-Dutton and son Jackson, now five, mark the third anniversary of Desreen Brook’s tragic death on November 10, he has launched a petition calling for people over 70 to be retested every three years to keep their licence.
Mr Brooks-Dutton told the Ham&High: “We celebrated Desreen’s birthday on October 4th.
“I asked Jackson what he wanted to do. He wanted to make her a chocolate cake and have a little party.
“It was like she was there. It wasn’t a sad thing in his mind, he was so excited about the cake.
“Jackson doesn’t really ask about the accident, but he never stops talking about his mum.
“People ask what I am doing on the anniversary of the accident, What can we do?
“It is not a positive thing or something we really want to mark.”
Instead, he has launched his petition which has already gathered 130,000 signatures in just four days.
As reported in the Ham&High Ms Brooks, 33, was killed instantly when she was mown down by retired stockbroker Geoffrey Lederman on November 10 2012.
The 85-year-old’s car ploughed into her after mounting the kerb outside West Hampstead Tube station and also scraped a pram carrying Jackson, which his dad managed to steer clear.
Mr Brooks-Dutton, who writes about living with loss in his blog, Life As a Widower, writes: “On 10 November 2012, just after 8pm, I left my friends’ house in northwest London, a happily married 33-year-old father.
“It was then that I heard my wife, Desreen, speak her final words: ‘I’m so proud of him,’ she said of our two-year-old son, Jackson.
“Seconds later a car mounted the pavement and struck Desreen.
“It was a pensioner who’d mistaken the accelerator for the brake, and was going 54 miles per hour in a 20 zone. In that moment I became a widower.”
Lederman, of Hamilton Terrace, was jailed for 18 months and banned from driving for life after being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving at Blackfriars Crown Court in December 2014.
But appeal court judges later cut his sentence to 12 months because of his deteriorating mental health.
Mr Brooks-Dutton writes: “The judge who sentenced the 85-year-old driver who killed my wife said; ‘An elderly driver who knows, or should acknowledge, that he or she is losing his or her faculties is no less a danger than a drunken driver who knows the same.’
“I agree, that’s why I’ve started this petition”
He was also moved to action by an incident last October 23 where six adults and two children were mown down by a 92-year-old driver outside a Guildford shopping centre.
A baby girl and two-year-old boy were seriously injured when they were catapulted out of pushchairs after the VW Polo slammed into them.
Mr Brooks-Dutton said: “I have been thinking about a petition for some time, but the Guildford incident really moved me to action. I looked at the news I was literally crying.
“It brought back memories of the accident when Jackson’s pushchair was skimmed by the car.
“I thought I can’t sit around and do nothing about it.”
As well as the petition, he is also appealing for people to look out for their own relatives and friends and take action when they are no longer fit to drive.
“The law might not change quickly but a lot of people can do things. I would urge people to talk to their parents or grandparents.
Everyone can change this and everyone had got a responsibility as often its hard for people to recognise themselves when they should no longer drive.”
As three years pass since Desreen’s death, Mr Brooks-Dutton says: “It never goes away, but it changes and becomes different.
“It feels like a long time ago in some ways, in other ways I can’t believe it has been three years. Jackson is doing well and just started school in September.
“He is so like his mum. He has got lots of funny habits like her. This morning when he woke up, he screwed face up in exactly same way she always did.
“There is so much of her in him.”
He now hopes that a change in the law will spare another child and father from going through the loss he and Jackson have suffered.
He said: “I know the human cost of unfit drivers on the road and I never want anyone to go through a tragedy like the one that has decimated my family.”
Sign the petition here.