A key issue in the conviction of a Huntingdon woman for manslaughter is whether a sign indicating dual cycle and pedestrian use on a footpath was there at the time of a cyclist’s death.
An investigation by CambsNews has thrown doubt whether the sign in Nursery Road – that closest to where the death occurred – was there when Cecilia Ward, 77, fell into the path of an ongoing car and died.
Photographic evidence shows that the current sign was made in 2022 – so therefore installed two years after Auriol Grey gestured in a “hostile and aggressive” manner and told Celia Ward to “get off the f**** pavement”.
Auriol Grey has been jailed for manslaughter after a cyclist fell into the path of an oncoming car.
Grey shouted and waved aggressively at cyclist Celia Ward causing her to fall into the road.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 2, 2023
Auriol Grey, 49, who has cerebral palsy and has only partial sight, confronted Mrs Ward as they approached in opposite directions on the pavement on October 20, 2020.
Mrs Ward veered into the road, fell off, and was struck by car and died.
Google Maps from 2021 show the current sign was not there at the time of the death and many residents have reported that nearly all of the signs on the Huntingdon ring road have been replaced since the tragedy.
Judge Sean Enright, jailing Grey for three years after her conviction, refused to accept that her actions could be explained by disability.
And he insisted that the pavement where the tragedy occurred was 2.4 metres and was a “shared path on the ring road”.
However, that crucial aspect of the case against Grey has since been subject to scrutiny.
Even the trial had been told by police that they could not “categorically” state it was a shared pavement.
Labour councillor and disability campaigner Gerri Bird believes the “the county council ought to have the information and it needs checking urgently”.
Cambridgeshire County Council has not – as yet – been able to confirm it.
“We cannot categorically say it is a shared use path as we could not find any legal records to evidence this,” said a spokesperson.
“We know it is used by cyclists and we are looking at this location to see if there is any work required to make things clearer.
“We’d urge all users to take care and be considerate to each other.”
John Morris is a former county councillor and founder and chair of the Hunts Walking & Cycling Group.
“It’s all very confusing,” he said. “I think the signage is a bit of a distraction to the key issue of the totally inadequate and substandard infrastructure for people walking, cycling or using mobility scooters, pushchairs, wheelchairs etc.”
He said he did not know when the sign was put up but believes it was “many years ago.
“It has been custom and practice for most of the ring road paths to be used by pedestrians and cyclists for decades.
“It takes a very brave cyclist to cycle on the ring road carriageway when the road is packed with fast moving cars swopping lanes.
“I don’t think many people would expect an elderly cyclist, novice cyclist or school children to cycle on the ring road carriageway.”
Huntingdon area social media has been awash with comments on the case, some believing it was a tragic accident and should have been treated as such.
“The pedestrian was passing by a lamppost where the path is narrower,” said one post.
“She has mobility issues that Celia should have noticed. Celia appears to be a weak cyclist because she lost her balance so easily. She did not wear a helmet. She did not stop for the pedestrian.”
Detective Sergeant Mark Dollard led the police inquiry and interviewed Grey, said: “I’ve seen a number of ill-informed comments on various messaging sites as well and it’s not helpful to anyone.”
He said: “’Everyone will have their own views on cyclists, pavements and cycleways but what is clear is Auriol Grey’s response to the presence of Celia on a pedal cycle was totally disproportionate and ultimately found to be unlawful, resulting in Celia’s untimely and needless death.
‘I am pleased with the verdict and hope it is a stark reminder to all road users to take care and be considerate to each other.
‘I want to take the time to acknowledge Celia’s family and thank them for their patience and dignity throughout the entirety of the investigation and trial.’
In a later BBC interview he said: “I’ll always remember the morning after it occurred obtaining the CCTV and watching it in its entirety.
“In all honesty it’s horrific and not appropriate for wider release to the public, but, if it were, then I think a lot of the arguments in relation to appropriate responses would be null and void.”
He added that there were “considerations in relation to Auriol Grey’s vulnerability” in their investigation.
“A lot of medical records… professional expert evidence was sought and presented to a jury, it’s important to note, and with all that, in fact, she was found guilty of an unlawful act and that is why she was convicted,” he said.
He said “what [Grey] did was wrong but ultimately that will not bring Celia back”, and he did not believe her family “take any pleasure in the fact that a sentence was passed”.
Mr Morris said he was struggling to understand why Det Sgt Dollard felt that everyone would have their own views of cyclists on pavements and cycleways.
“There are two clearly marked shared use cycle signs indicating this is shared use path along the north side of the Huntingdon Ring Road,” he said.
“Celia Ward was a 77-year-old grandmother cycling lawfully along this shared use path.”
We used Google to go back through the years to see what dual purpose cycle/pedestrian signage was on Nursery Road, Huntingdon, near to where the fatal incident took place. Here’s what we found – or rather didn’t find.
We used Google to go back through the years to see what dual purpose cycle/pedestrian signage was on Nursery Road, Huntingdon, near to where the fatal incident took place. Here’s what we found – or rather didn’t find. September 2018
We used Google to go back through the years to see what dual purpose cycle/pedestrian signage was on Nursery Road, Huntingdon, near to where the fatal incident took place. Here’s what we found – or rather didn’t find. April 2021
The consequences of the Celia Ward’s tragic death have affected many.
Mother-of-two Carla Money, 33, was the driver of the VW Passat that hit Mrs Ward: she told journalists she has been left so devastated that it has led to the breakup of her marriage and her suffering from PTSD.
Mrs Ward’s widower, retired RAF pilot David Ward, said that the clip of Celia’s last moments “will haunt me forever”.
In a statement read out in court he said: “Rarely a day goes by without thinking of her and our happy life together, but I can so easily burst into tears, as I have on so many occasions.”
He has been forced to sell the family home and now lives in a retirement village near to his daughter in Hampshire.
As for Grey she spent the weekend in a hospital prison at Peterborough awaiting being moved to a permanent prison.
She fears losing her sheltered housing accommodation in Huntingdon where she has lived for many years.
Her lawyers are considering an appeal.
BACKGROUND – court verdict
Auriol Grey, 49, was walking along the pavement in Nursery Road, Huntingdon, in October 2020, when she began gesturing and shouting at Celia Ward, 77, approaching in the opposite direction on her bike.
Grey shouted at Mrs Ward to get off the pavement before throwing her arm towards her.
Mrs Ward fell into the road in front of a moving vehicle and was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Grey was arrested at her home in Huntingdon. When questioned, she explained she had disabilities, including impaired vision, and was worried about being struck by the bike.
Grey, of Bradbury Place, Huntingdon, was found guilty of manslaughter after a trial at Peterborough Crown Court and was sentenced to three years in prison on March 2
Celia’s husband David Ward issued this statement following the sentence: “After 53 years of happy marriage, Celia was taken from me in a most horrific way, leaving me with only my memories. She was kind, calm, careful, cheerful and competent in all that she did.
“Her death has caused me great suffering. We relied on each other, shared the same sense of humour and outlook on life, and enjoyed each other’s company. I miss her terribly.”
Celia’s daughter Gillian said: “Celia Ward was my mum, mother-in-law to my husband and much-loved grandmother to my son, but most importantly, the love of my father’s life. Her untimely death has turned our world on its head and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wish I could pick up the phone to ask her advice, celebrate the special events in our lives or just tell her how much I love her.
“It’s easy to say how wonderful my mum was… she was passionate about her family and always there to help and support us. She was of a generation that made and mended, kept a spotless house and always put others first. Her death has marred what should have been some of the most enjoyable times for us as a family.
“We can never forget the past two and a half years, but it’s now time to start remembering the wonderful memories and times we had with mum, and hopefully find some peace.”
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