A mother-of-two was killed when a drunken car park row ended in her being flung from the bonnet of a moving car and into a metal post, a court heard.
Christie McHugh, 33, fatally cracked her skull on a Belisha beacon when she was thrown from the vehicle at a zebra crossing in East Barnet Road, outside the Lord Kitchener pub, on Monday March 4, last year.
The driver of the car, 52-year-old Ophelia Oka-Koi, of Galdana Avenue, High Barnet, faces a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
At the start of the trial today, Harrow Crown Court heard how 33-year-old Mrs McHugh, who was with her baby and five-year-old son at the time, had been drinking in the pub that afternoon with her husband John and nephew Anthony Marriot.
Opening the prosecution, Alison Hunter QC explained that, at about 6.30pm, the trio left the pub to drive home in Mrs McHugh’s car, something the prosecutor admitted “she might have been advised not to do, given the level of alcohol she had consumed”.
But when they got to the car, they were unable to get the car door open far enough to get the baby seat in as Ms Oka-Koi’s car was too close, a situation Miss Hunter said the trio were “unhappy” about.
When Ms Oka-Choi arrived back at her car from shopping in a nearby Sainsbury’s moments later, the group began shouting, swearing and verbally abusing her.
Miss Hunter said: “Mrs McHugh let Ms Oka-Choi know that they were not happy. There was some swearing, they told her she shouldn’t have parked there.”
The defendant moved her car, but it continued to block Mrs McHugh’s vehicle.
Miss Hunter said: “They then approached the car and began shouting even more, kicking the vehicle and trying to open it. Mrs Oka-Choi understandably felt some pressure and some fear with the events going on around her and she called the police.”
"Verbally abusive and aggressive"
The court was played a recording of the 999 call made by the defendant at the time of the incident, in which she explains to the operator: “There is a woman kicking and banging my car. She’s being verbally abusive and aggressive.”
In the background, a man and a woman could be heard shouting and swearing, as well as noises that appeared to be the sound of banging on the car window.
Miss Hunter explained that, the prosecution say, the defendant’s car then moved slightly and, as it did so, Mrs McHugh moved to the front of the car and “wedged herself on top of it like a star over the windscreen and the bonnet”.
Harrow Crown Court was then told by the prosecutor that Mrs Oka-Choi “makes a decision to drive out of the car park”.
An independent expert, Miss Hunter said, will later tell the court that the car was estimated to be travelling between 10mph and 15mph when it makes a sharp right turn out of the car park with Mrs McHugh clinging on to the windscreen.
Miss Hunter said: “Mrs McHugh, on the bonnet insecurely and clearly in drink, was driven out as the car turned right, causing her to be hurtled off the bonnet and onto the road. What caused her tragic death was that she fell into a Belisha beacon and her skull impacted on the post. Sadly, that caused the almost instantaneous death of Mrs McHugh.”
A pathologist estimated that Mrs McHugh would have lost all vital signs of life within 36 seconds of the impact, despite paramedics working for more than an hour to try and revive her.
She was described as a "lovely lady" by those who knew her soon after her death.
Miss Hunter explained to the jury that they must decide whether Mrs Oka-Choi’s driving had “fallen below the minimum standards of a competent driver".
She added: "There are no winners in a case like this, it is simply a tragedy."
Tomorrow the jury is expected to hear evidence from Mrs McHugh’s husband John. The case continues.
The row began in the car park of the Lord Kitchener pub in New Barnet