'I was numb with shock': Nurse speaks after being found guilty for causing death by careless driving (From Times Series)
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'I was numb with shock': Nurse Ophelia Oka-Koi speaks after being found guilty for causing death by careless driving
A mental health nurse found guilty of causing death by careless driving said she was “numb with shock” when she realised a mother-of-two died after being flung from the bonnet of her car.
Jurors took eight hours and eight minutes to find Opehlia Oka-Koi guilty after hearing how an argument in the Lord Kitchener pub car park led to the death of Christie McHugh, 33, on March 4 last year.
Oka-Koi was returning to her car in East Barnet Road after picking up some bread and cheese from nearby Sainsbury’s, when Mrs McHugh's husband, John, told her she should not have parked in there because it was meant for customers only.
Harrow Crown Court heard how Oka-Koi swore at him, and he swore back before she got into her car.
But Mrs and Mrs McHugh, who had been at the pub with their two children, struggled to put their baby's car seat into their car as their rear doors were blocked by Okai-Koi's Vauxhall Insignia.
An argument ensued during which Mrs McHugh told Oka-Koi to get out of the car and “get physical”.
Oka-Koi moved to the pub’s exit and called police, by which time the married couple of six years were kicking, punching and slapping her vehicle. Mrs McHugh then got onto the bonnet and began bouncing on it.
Oka-Koi, of Galdana Avenue, High Barnet, previously told the court she was controlling her car's clutch biting point while preparing to leave, but as she turned round to see a “huge image”, which she later realised was Mrs McHugh, in front of her, she “bolted” out of the car park.
Witnesses described seeing Oka-Koi drive out at “great speed” and turn right into East Barnet Road where Mrs McHugh slipped from the bonnet and hit a belisha beacon at a zebra crossing.
Oka-Koi carried on driving. Despite paramedics' attempts to revive Mrs McHugh, the mother was pronounced dead at the scene.
Speaking after the jury had returned their verdict today, Oka-Koi said: “I regret what happened. I was numb with shock to hear the woman died. What happened shouldn’t have happened.
“We all learn lessons from what happened.”
Asked if she took some responsibility for what happened, she said: “Not exactly. It’s a difficult case and a tragic one.”
Oka-Koi also faced a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, of which the jury found her not guilty.
The 51-year-old said she thought she should have been acquitted for both, but said she was a “little relieved” to be found guilty for the lesser offence of death by careless driving.
She added: “I believe I would probably not be sitting here today if I hadn’t fled the scene.”
Judge Freya Newbury thanked the jury for taking care to reach their verdict in what she described as a “difficult case”.
Sentencing has been adjourned until July 18, and Oka-Koi has been given unconditional bail to return on that date.
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