No charges over double fatality

ALWAYS ARM-IN-ARM: Bob and Joan Murch
ALWAYS ARM-IN-ARM: Bob and Joan Murch

No charges will be laid against the young German driver who collided with and killed an elderly couple walking arm-in-arm across the main road at Tongaporutu.

Retired New Plymouth couple Joan, 78, and Bob Murch, 83, were fatally injured on May 1 about 2.15pm when the New Plymouth-bound car crashed into them.

The decision not to prosecute followed an extensive investigation into the crash, officer in charge Senior Sergeant Matt Prendergast, of Waitara, said yesterday.

A large part of that decision was because the Murch family did not want the driver charged.

Instead, the 18-year-old was formally warned for careless use of a motor vehicle causing death.

The teenager, who was a volunteer in Auckland for 12 months where he was working with the disabled, left New Zealand yesterday to return to his home in Germany.

The day before, he met with some of the Murch family in Auckland in a restorative justice-type conference.

The meeting, facilitated by police, proved to be very beneficial to both groups, Prendergast said.

"It was a rare thing to happen.

"It was a chance for everyone to come together and express their views. Obviously it was an emotional meeting."

In not charging the teenager, the police took into account the wishes of the next of kin who did not want him prosecuted, he said.

"It is unusual," Prendergast said.

"I can't speak highly enough of the family of the deceased.

"They are incredibly generous and forgiving people."

At the meeting, the driver told the family that the crash would stay with him for the rest of his life.

"It was just a combination of things that led to a tragic outcome," Prendergast said.

The driver had never been in trouble before.

"He is a fine upstanding young guy," Prendergast said.

Yesterday, son-in-law Richard West described the meeting between the parties as gracious and respectful.

The family was grateful for police facilitating yesterday's meeting in Auckland between some of them and the driver.

"The family wanted to meet him face to face to tell him there were no hard feelings.

"I think it was helpful and will help him and us to better work through the loss and trauma in a healthy way."

The family had requested to meet with the driver right from the beginning but this was not possible while the investigation was under way, he said.

They were relieved to find out that he had been part of a supportive community in Auckland who had helped him through, West said. The family was aware the police had taken their views into consideration in not prosecuting.

They still had questions about the crash but were aware it was a combination of a number of factors that resulted in the "very unfortunate and tragic outcome".

"As a family we appreciate the immense help and support we had from the community," West said.

Taranaki Daily News