THE husband of a woman killed by speeding drink driver Paula Barnes has told of how nothing in his 35-year police career had prepared him for coping with the aftermath of his wife’s death.
David Wright said Paula Barnes robbed him of the love of his life when she crashed head-on into his wife Diane’s car on an unclassified country road between the villages of Baydon and Foxhill in September 2010.
Barnes, 45, of Baydon, was jailed for more than eight years at Swindon Crown Court yesterday, after she went on the run and hid from justice in Holland for nearly two years.
David, 57, a sergeant with the Metropolitan Police, attended court with their daughters Tracey, 23, and Lucy, 19, as well as numerous supporters.
In an emotional victim impact statement presented to Judge Euan Ambrose at court, Mr Wright wrote of his loss. “Diane was a fantastic wife, friend, mother and work colleague. There is not a day goes by without us all thinking of her and no words can express just how much we miss her, other than to say that our lives have been utterly devastated and that we miss her terribly,” he wrote.
“Diane left for work and never came back. She was on her way home from work to be with her family.
“She never completed this journey owing to Paula Barnes being drunk and driving erratically on the wrong side of the road in a powerful car.
“She drove straight into my wife and killed her instantly. At the same time she killed the hopes and dreams of so many other people.”
Diane, who was married to David for 23 years, worked as a special needs teaching assistant at St Nicholas Primary School, Baydon.
“I have spent 35 years dealing with serious and at times tragic incidents. As a consequence I thought myself to be fairly robust,” wrote David.
“However, I have had to take a considerable amount of time off sick and go for counselling as a direct result of this matter.
“My confidence has been affected but I have had to remain strong for the sake of our daughters.
“Despite this, inside I have been falling apart, so much so that I have had to ask for help.
“We were a strong close family until the day Paula Barnes tore this family apart killing Diane.
“She then compounded matters by prolonging our agony and skipping bail to live abroad.
“This showed her absolute disdain for us, her failure to accept responsibility and her total lack of remorse.
“Our daughter Lucy was unfortunate to come across the incident and was told by police at the scene that her mum was dead.
“She will have to live with the sight of the mangled wreckage where her mother was killed for the rest of her life.
“I cannot imagine how it must have felt to have to look on helplessly as the emergency services did all they could – standing there at side of road with no-one to turn and no shoulder to cry on. It must have been awful.”
Mr Wright spoke of how his daughters had struggled with their studies following the death of their mother but had gone on to achieve great success.
At the time Tracey was at Plymouth University studying illustration while Lucy was half-way through her A-levels.
Tracey has since graduated with first class honours while Lucy has now gone to the same university to study geography.
“The fact that they have both gone on to do so well in their lives is testimony to their characters,” he wrote. “I am so proud of them both and I know that Diane would be too.”
Mr Wright continued: “From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed there is a gaping hole in my life.
“I often wake up in my sleep thinking that she is still alive only to turn over in the realisation that she is no longer with me. I miss her and love her dearly.
“Paula Barnes’s actions have taken away much of my families future. I know that Diane was really looking forward to seeing both Tracey and Lucy graduate from university.
“She often talked about them both getting married and settling down. Sadly now my girls will not have the support of their mother at any future events.
“As for me, I do not know what the future holds. I intend to stay with the Metropolitan Police at least until Lucy has finished her degree.
“Diane and I were looking forward to both retiring and embarking on a cruise or a bit of travelling.
“None of our dreams or aspirations are now possible due to a stupid, drunken, inconsiderate woman.
“I don’t think that she will ever learn the extent of what she has done and the affect she has had on so many people – many of whom are in court today.
“Paula Barnes killed a wonderful wife and a wonderful mother. I want her to know that, I want her to know that for the rest of her life.”
Drink-driver sentenced to eight years
SPEEDING drink-driver Paula Barnes who killed mother-of-two Diane Wright in a head-on car crash was yesterday jailed for more than eight years after going on the run and hiding from justice in Holland for nearly two years.
Paula Barnes, 45, of Baydon, was accused of causing the death of 49-year-old teaching assistant Diane Wright by driving dangerously along an unclassified country road between the villages of Baydon and Foxhill at 3.30pm on September 23, 2010.
But, despite surrendering her passport, it is thought she left the country in early 2011 via private transport – and failed to turn up for a court hearing in April 2011 to enter a plea.
After a complex investigation involving Wiltshire Police, Interpol, regional crime group Zephyr and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, she was tracked down in Amsterdam in November 2012 and brought back to Swindon, where she finally pleaded guilty.
Yesterday at Swindon Crown Court, Barnes, of Aldbourne Road, Baydon, stood apparently emotionless in the dock as she was jailed for eight years and banned from the roads for 10 years for causing death by dangerous driving, and also jailed for five months consecutively for failing to surrender to bail.
Judge Euan Ambrose told Barnes: “They were a close-knit family. Mrs Wright was described in the victim personal statements as the lynch-pin of the centre of her family.”
He said her decision to abscond did not accord with the defence’s claim she was remorseful.
Colin Meeke, prosecuting, said Barnes was seen moments before the crash driving an Audi erratically in the other direction, on the wrong side of the road, at speeds estimated at up to 100mph – and she narrowly avoided crashing into two other cars before the fatal collision. He said: “The best estimates for the defendant’s speed was that she was travelling at the time of the collision between 64mph and 72mph.
“It’s clear the collision was on the wrong side of the road.”
Mrs Wright died instantly while Barnes was taken to hospital with broken bones. Mr Meeke said Mrs Wright’s youngest daughter, Lucy, then 17, went out to look for her when she did not come home and learned of the tragedy after approaching the police cordon at the scene.
Tests of Barnes’ blood, taken five hours after the incident, estimated she had 195 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The limit is 80.
Ian Lawrie QC, defending, said Barnes had no previous convictions, she did not fight her extradition, and she had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity back in the UK.