A PENSIONER who hit and killed a mother-of-three on a zebra crossing has been spared jail.
Shelton Hoilett, 77, collided with Charmaine Duncan, 29, as he tried to pass – or "undertake" - a car which had stopped to let her walk across.
The 29-year-old, who was on her way to collect her children from school, was thrown on to the bonnet of Hoilett's black Mercedes and then dragged under the wheel after he accidentally pressed the accelerator rather than applying the brake.
Miss Duncan suffered horrific injuries but was able to ask after her children before being taken to hospital where she later died.
In a statement read out in court, Wylene Duncan said her granddaughter's death was a nightmare her family would live for the rest of their lives.
Hoilett, of Selhurst Road, South Norwood, initially denied causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial at Croydon Crown Court today (Tuesday).
He was banned from driving and given a 24-week sentence which Judge Jeremy Gould QC suspended for 12 months due to Hoilett's "impeccable" character and driving record.
The court heard how Miss Duncan, who had three children aged two, six and nine, left her home in Thirsk Road, South Norwood, to collect her two eldest children from school.
As she walked she came to a zebra crossing on Whitehorse Lane near the junction with Grange Road in Thornton Heath.
Catherine Pattison, prosecuting, described how another driver, Jerome Henry, stopped his car at the crossing to allow Miss Duncan to cross.
"He saw her take a step past his car and then he saw a black Mercedes approach on the left hand side and collide with Miss Duncan," she explained.
Mr Henry told police Miss Duncan had shouted and tried to sidestep Hoilett's car which had "kept going", pushing her on to the bonnet before she fell in front of - and then underneath - the vehicle.
Hoilett then got out of the car and was heard to say "oh my God, oh my God" as other motorists rushed to help Miss Duncan, who had suffered serious internal injuries.
"At that time she was conscious," Ms Pattison told the court. "She was concerned for her children."
Miss Duncan was taken to the major trauma unit at King's College Hospital, in Denmark Hill, where she underwent emergency surgery. She was then transferred to St George's, in Tooting, but died in the early hours of March 22.
Hoilett, a retired railway guard with an unblemished driving record, was interviewed by the police on April 3.
He explained that he had lived in the area for 50 years and knew that section of Whitehorse Lane well.
When asked about the collision, he said a van had obscured his view of Miss Duncan and that, after hitting her, his foot had slipped off the brake as he tried to apply it. When police checked CCTV footage they discovered there had not been a van.
Hoilett was charged with causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and pleaded not guilty in April this year.
Jason Cross, defending, said it had taken his client 17 months to admit the offence because he had been unwell and medical reports had been sought to determine whether his diabetes had been a factor in the collision.
Ms Pattison said that, by "undertaking" at a zebra crossing, Hoilett was guilty of a "serious lapse of judgement" which meant his standard of driving "fell below that of a careful and competent driver".
Mr Cross told the court that Mr Hoilett, a father-of-five, felt the collision had brought "great shame and sorrow" on him.
He added: "He is remorseful for what his actions and lapse of judgement have done both to Miss Duncan and her family. He wishes he could change what happened on that day but he can't."
Miss Duncan's family and friends, including her partner Mark Ford, were in court for the hearing.
In her impact statement, Wylene Duncan, said she had raised Charmaine as if she were her own daughter after her mother, Deborah, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"Charmaine was, and still is, very special to me," she said. "Her tragic and untimely death has left me devastated as I lost my first grandchild and, because of the sort of bond we had, I also feel as though I lost my only child.
"At times the loss has been unbearable, especially in the knowledge that this could so easily have been prevented and that her loss was so unnecessary.
"During the last few months of her life Charmaine and I were especially close and we spent a lot of time together.
"We would go shopping together and the more I spent time with her the more I realised what an amazing young woman she was.
"Charmaine had so much she still wanted to do and achieve and it breaks my heart that she will never have the chance to achieve her true potential."
Due to the severity of her illness, Deborah Duncan had not been able to attend her daughter's funeral, meaning she has been "unable to say goodbye to her only child".
Wylene added: "Charmaine's death has brought home how fragile life is and the fact that we are living a nightmare every day for the rest of our lives.
"It's so hard to put in to words the loss that has been suffered. Nothing and no one can bring Charmaine back to us or make what has happened any easier to bear."
Judge Gould said he had taken into account both Wylene's words and a statement written by Mr Ford, who asked for account not to be read out in court.
"They graphically illustrate the profound sense of loss felt by the friends and family of Charmaine Duncan," he said.
"Having said that, I have to make it clear that no sentence I impose can in any way begin to meet the profound sadness felt by all who knew and loved this obviously very special young woman."
Hoilett, who suffers from diabetes, gout and has recently had a kidney transplant, will have to pass an extended test if he is to drive again. He was ordered to pay costs of £1,500.
Judge Gould accepted that Hoilett had shown "sincere" remorse for what had happened and that, given his previous good character, a suspended sentence was the most appropriate punishment.