Bid for damages for Little Bedwyn man

This Is Wiltshire: Mother-of-three and author Julie Canning and the Fairfield foot crossing, which has since been changed since her death Mother-of-three and author Julie Canning and the Fairfield foot crossing, which has since been changed since her death

Widower Spencer Canning has this week revealed the enormous toll his wife’s death three years ago on the railway line near their Little Bedwyn home is continuing to have.

The 59-year-old chartered surveyor is suing Network Rail for £600,000, claiming its neglect caused the death of Julia Canning, 55.

She was out for a walk with the family’s two dogs, Labrador Tigger and Dalmatian Jazz in May 2009, when she was struck by a train travelling at 69mph, an inquest later heard. They were using the Fairfield foot crossing over the line.

The tragedy has not just taken an emotional toll on the family, but a financial one as well.

Mr Canning says he and his three children, who are all in their 20s, are still struggling to come to terms with her death, but the loss of his wife’s income also means he is having to sell the family home of 20 years.

He says his wife’s income as a cookery writer and editor was vital towards the upkeep of their home in Church Street and to help support their three children.

Yesterday Mr Canning said that because of the shock of his wife’s death and as the result of a cancer scare, although doctors subsequently found his illness was non-malignant, he had to cut back on his own work.

He said: “I have never really recovered (from his wife’s death) in terms of applying myself to my own business as before.” He said that because he was self-employed his income also depended on commissions but he had not earned anything in the last two years.

“I find myself in a position where I am having to sell the house,” said Mr Canning, adding that he planned to stay in the area.

This week Mr Canning has instructed lawyers to seek compensation for the loss of his wife’s £50,000 a year net earnings that contributed towards the upkeep of the family home and supporting their three children, Stratford, 22, Florence, 23, and Cordelia, 27.

An inquest in June 2010 recorded a verdict of accidental death and in June this year at Southampton Crown Court Network Rail was fined £375,000 and ordered to pay costs of £19,500 after admitting breaching Health and Safety Regulations.

The coroner heard that since Mrs Canning’s death Network Rail had cut back trackside vegetation, improved the crossing surface and erected boards instructing drivers to sound their whistle when approaching the Fairfield crossing.

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