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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 7th February, 1936, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Mrs. Alice Brown

Fatal Accident in Washbrook Road

Woman Knocked Down By Car

Inquest Comments

Faulty Footbrake: Victim Turned Back

  The driver of a car which knocked down and killed Mrs. Alice Brown, of 44, Spencer-road, Rushden, near the junction of Washbrook-road and Spencer-road, Rushden, on Friday morning, was criticised at the inquest for driving with a “practically useless” footbrake.

  Mrs. Brown was returning from a shopping visit to High-street when she was knocked down, dying a few minutes later.  With a shopping basket in her hand, she stepped off the pavement near the junction of Washbrook-road and Higham-road, intending to cross into Spencer-road, just opposite.

  Having walked towards the middle of the road she was alarmed by the approach of a car which had come from the same direction as herself and was turning left into Washbrook-road.  She apparently turned back and was knocked over.

  Helpers carried her into the nearby house of Mrs. Bailey, but she died within a few minutes.

  Inspector Lee and P.C. Wager were the police officers who arrived, and on their instructions the Rushden motor ambulance took the body to the mortuary.

  Mrs. Brown, who was aged 60, was the wife of Mr. William Brown, an employee of the Rushden and Higham Ferrers Gas Co., and there are several sons and daughters.

Driver Questioned

  The driver of the car, Mr. Eric Richardson, brick manufacturer, Manor House, Earls Barton, was closely questioned by the East Northants Coroner (Mr. J. C. Parker) at the inquest, which was held at the Ambulance Room, Rushden, on Saturday evening.

  Mr. Richardson said that it was about 10.55 on Friday morning when he turned his car into Washbrook-road from the direction of Rushden.

  The Coroner: What speed were you going? – Witness: In the statement I said 15 m.p.h., but I think it was nearer 12.

  When did you see Mrs. Brown first? – When I was about 25 yards away.

  Did you slow down? – No, I still kept on at the same speed.

  Was she stepping from the left hand side? – Yes.

  Was she looking towards you? – Yes, she was looking right into my eyes, as near as I can judge from that distance.

  Did you see her going towards the middle of the road? – Yes.  She pulled up, hesitated and went on again.

  How far were you away then? – I was gradually approaching.

“Slow Motion Picture”

  What did you do then? – I went farther out into the middle of the road, and as soon as I saw her going farther on I tried to get at the back of her.  I think I should have got clear, but when I was about six feet away from her she stepped back.  It was then that I applied the brake.  The whole thing had gone as slowly as a slow motion picture.

  Which brake did you apply? – The hand brake.  I shot the brake on, but I was almost on top of her then.

  Did she step back? – Yes, I think she was standing still at the time I hit her, as though thinking it was too far to get back to the pavement.

  Which part of the car hit her? – The right hand side head-lamp, which was bent back about a quarter of an inch.

  All this happened in a second? – Oh, no.  From my first seeing her it took some few seconds.  I was travelling slowly and I was surprised there was an accident at all.  I should think it took about five seconds.

  If she had kept straight on, you think she would have been clear? – Absolutely, definitely clear by at least a yard.  As I believed she was under the car, I released the brake and got clear.

  Is your eyesight good? – Yes, very good.

A Clear View

  The Foreman: If the lady had gone straight on she would have been alive to-day? – Oh, yes.  There is no doubt about that.  If she had stood still I should have missed her.

  A Juryman: There was nothing obstructing your view? – No.

  Did the wheels go over her? – I cannot really say, because it was difficult to see.

  Evidence of identification was given by the husband of the deceased, Mr. William Brown, a gas stoker, of 44, Spencer-road, Rushden, who said his wife’s hearing and eyesight were good.

  An eye-witness account of the accident was given by Charles William Hartop, dairyman, of Newton Bromshold, who said that at 10.55 a.m. on Friday he was crossing Washbrook-road from south to north.

Stepped Back

  “I saw Mrs. Brown walk off the pavement,” he said, “from my right hand side, about 35 yards away from me.  She was a yard off the pavement before I stepped off, and when I got nearly into the middle of the road I saw a car coming from Higham-road from the direction of Rushden.  The car was just coming round the corner at a reasonable speed.  I saw Mrs. Brown was nearly in the middle of the road when the car got very close to her.  The car was on its proper side and was still travelling at a reasonable speed.  When it was level with Mrs. Brown she hesitated and then stepped back in front of the car.  I think the offside wing hit her and she was knocked down in the road on the offside of the car.  I did not see the car go over her.”

  Witness thought the brakes went on just as the collision occurred.  The car went on about four yards before it stopped.

  The Coroner: Was the horn sounded? – I could not say.  I did not hear it.

  You saw the whole accident? – Yes.  That’s just how it happened.

  The Foreman: Had Mrs. Brown kept on she would have been clear? – Yes.

  It was through her stepping back that the accident occurred? – Yes.

  Inspector H. J. Lee, of Rushden, said the accident was reported to him by Mr. Richardson.  He went to the scene, where he saw Mr. Richardson’s car some distance from the end of Spencer-road, on the left hand side looking towards Irchester.  The injured lady had been removed to a nearby house and was being attended by a doctor.

Brake Test

  There was a skid mark three feet in length, apparently made by the right hand rear wheel.  This was 16ft. 3ins. from the kerb of the footpath on the left hand side of the road.  From the end of the skid to a pool of blood opposite the entrance of Spencer-road was 11ft. 5ins.

  The width of the road where the accident happened was 43ft. 10ins.

  The Inspector said he tested the brakes of the car when it was being driven by Mr. Richardson, and at various speeds and circumstances he found the hand brake to be 100 per cent. efficient and the footbrake practically useless.

  At a speed of 30 m.p.h. on a similar gradient to where the accident happened with the footbrake applied it took 40 yards to pull up.

  Dr. J. S. Topping, of Rushden, said he was called to the scene of the accident about 11 a.m. and saw Mrs. Brown lying in the corridor of a house.  She was unconscious, and there were abrasions on the left side of her face.

  He diagnosed a fracture of the skull, which was the cause of death.  There were no injuries to the body.

“A Complete Memory”

  The Coroner, addressing the jury, said they had heard that Mr. Richardson was driving his car at a reasonable pace, and this evidence was supported by Mr. Hartop, who appeared to have seen the whole thing and had retained a complete memory of it.

  Mrs. Brown had stepped off the pavement about 25 yards in front of the car.  Having got somewhere near the centre of the road, everybody agreed that instead of keeping on she stepped back and then hesitated.  Had she kept straight on there would have been room for the car, but apparently something happened in her mind, and she stepped back with the result that she was hit by the car, and died as a result of the injuries.

  “We have heard that the footbrake was not in order.  I knew that, and that was why I asked Mr. Richardson which brake he applied.

  “I think the footbrake is the brake that is more often used, and that the handbrake is used more as a supplementary brake.  This is rather a serious matter in a motor car unless it is properly driven and equipped, and this car was not properly equipped.”

The Verdict

  Returning a verdict of “Accidental death,” the jury added a rider that they thought that Mr. Richardson should have his car brakes in proper working order before he took it on the road again.

  The Coroner said while the jury had retired Mr. Richardson had explained to him that he had been through floods and that was why his footbrake was not in working order.  It was working all right again now.

  Mr. Rollie Cox was foreman of the jury.

  Mr. H. W. Williams (Northampton) appeared for the driver of the car, and expressed deep sympathy with the bereaved husband on behalf of Mr. Richardson.


28th February, 1936

Sequel to Rushden Street Fatality

Earls Barton Manufacturer Fined for Driving With Faulty Brakes

“Affected By Floods”

  The driver of a car which knocked down and killed Mrs. Alice Brown, of 44, Spencer-road, Rushden, in Washbrook-road a month ago, appeared at Wellingborough Petty Sessions on Friday, summoned for using a motor-car which was not equipped with two entirely independent and efficient braking systems, or with one efficient braking system having two independent means of operation, at Rushden on January 31st.  He was Eric Richardson (42), brick manufacturer, Manor House, Earls Barton.

  Before the case was heard the Clerk (Mr. F. J. Simpson) said he understood that Mr. H. W. Williams, of Northampton, had been instructed to defend, but that he had asked the police to consent to the hearing being adjourned.

  Supt. Jones said he had his witnesses present, and defendant was present, too.

  Richardson told the Bench that he had come from near Sheffield, and he was willing for the case to be heard in Mr. Williams’s absence.

Inspector’s Test

  Answering the Clerk, defendant said he admitted a brake was out of order, but he did not plead guilty to the summons.

  Inspector Lee, of Rushden, said that on January 31 he visited the scene of a fatal road accident in which a motor-car, driven and owned by the defendant was involved.

  He subsequently rode by Richardson’s side for the purpose of testing the brakes of the car, and defendant was ordered to apply them under varying circumstances.  Using the foot brake, he said, it took the car 40 yards to pull up.

  In an explanation, the Inspector alleged, Richardson said he went to Worksop, and going through floods, the water must have got into his brake linings.

  P.C. Skells said he was instructed to test the brakes of the car.  He drove three-quarters of a mile and tested both brakes.  The hand brake was efficient, but the foot brake was practically useless.

  P.C. Skells told the Bench that defendant said he rarely used the foot brake.

“Normally Efficient”

  Mr. Richardson stated that it was not possible to get efficiency under all circumstances.  At eight o’clock the night before his car went through 300 yards of floods and the water affected both his brakes for the time being.  He got his hand brake into working order by applying it wherever possible.

  He considered that his brakes were normally efficient, but under these circumstances they were not.  In another few miles they would probably have worked and become efficient again.

  Mr. Owen Parker (Chairman) asked Inspector Lee how he came into touch with the case.

  The Inspector repeated that he visited the scene of a fatal road accident in which a motor-car driven by the defendant was involved.  He told Richardson that as the result of the accident he wished to test the brakes.

  Mr. Parker said it had been a simple case of carelessness; the driver might have known that the depth of water would have affected the car in some way or other.

  The result of this case is very small in comparison with the ultimate effect of the misdoing.” said Mr. Parker.

  “You will be fined £5.”

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