Nurse was 'panicking and confused' moments before mother-of-two's death

Times Series: Mrs McHugh pictured with her husband John Mrs McHugh pictured with her husband John

A mental health nurse told jurors she was “panicking, shocked and confused” during a row which resulted in a mother-of-two being flung from a moving car into a Belisha beacon.

Christie McHugh, 33, was thrown from Ophelia Oka-Koi’s car at a zebra crossing near the Lord Kitchener pub in East Barnet Road on March 4 last year.

Today Harrow Crown Court heard from witness Nina Steel, who was working on a checkout in nearby Sainsbury's supermarket at the time of the incident.

Miss Steel explained how she saw Mrs McHugh’s husband John looking "agitated" before his wife was carried out of the car park facing upwards “like a starfish” on the vehicle’s bonnet.

Describing the vehicle travelling at “great speed”, Miss Steel said: "It came full steam ahead, I thought I wasn't going to stop it was coming that fast.

"I saw Christie being flung off the car. At first I didn't think it was real."

The court then heard from Constable Stephen Sayer, who believed the car would have been travelling between 10mph and 15mph when Mrs McHugh was thrown from the bonnet.

He said: "At 10mph it might not cause the driver too many problems but at 15mph you will get considerable body roll. Bearing in mind there's a person on the bonnet while carrying out this manoeuvre it's fairly obvious the person would be dislodged."

The day after the incident Ms Oka-Koi gave a written statement to police, but following the advice of a solicitor she did not answer any questions put to her.

In the statement she explained she had been involved in a “verbal argument” with Mrs McHugh and her husband which resulted in them “punching and kicking” her car and swearing at her.

She said: “The woman and man were behaving like Rottweilers on the loose.”

But today she took the stand to address the jury explaining how she “didn’t want any trouble” and had wanted to return home after stopping off at Sainsbury’s to buy some bread and cheese.

She said: “When I was going to my car the gentleman said to me you should not have parked here, you’re not a pub user, you have no right to park here.” She then swore at him and he swore back before she got into her car.

Ms Oka-Koi said Mrs McHugh told her to get out of the car and “get physical” before she and her husband began attacking her vehicle.

Ms Oka-Koi said: “He was very loud, he had turned quite feisty, he became very aggressive and was banging the car. She appeared like she was going for blood.

“They were trying to smash the window. They were going round trying to get into the car. They were trying all the door handles.

“I became very concerned for my safety and I thought I should call for help and so I dialled 999.

“I was panicking, I was shocked and I was confused.”

Ms Oka-Koi said she wanted to leave the car park but Mrs McHugh had pulled her vehicle out, blocking the exit, and so she manoeuvred around the vehicle before calling police.

She then turned round to see a “huge image”, which was later described as Mrs McHugh, in front of her and she “bolted” out of the car park.

She said: “I can only explain it as a reaction to my fright.”

But cross examining Ms Oka-Koi, Alison Hunter QC for the prosecution argued she had “lost her temper” and used her vehicle as a “weapon” against Mrs McHugh.

The defendant denied the claims, and said: “I was startled and I bolted. I’m a thoughtful person and I’m not a liar and I wouldn’t make up stories like that. It’s something I regret, it’s happened, it’s not something I’m happy about. It’s changed my whole life, and I guess it’s changed their lives as well. It’s a horrible incident.”

The case continues.

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