Families of 2 girls, 8, killed in Wimbledon school crash say some may 'never experience joy again'

-Credit: (Image: MPS)
-Credit: (Image: MPS)

The families of the two eight-year-old pupils killed in a crash on July 6 last year say some of them will never experience joy again.

Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau died after the crash at The Study Prep school in Wimbledon when a Land Rover driver had a seizure and lost control.. Several others were also injured when the 4×4 crashed through a fence and collided with a building.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says the driver has voluntarily surrendered her licence and, following her diagnosis, will need to be a year free of any seizures before she can reapply to the DVLA for one again.

The driver, Claire Freemantle, expressed her 'deepest sorrow' and said she had 'no recollection of what took place' after losing consciousness because of an epileptic seizure at the wheel.

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'Nuria and Selena’s lives were taken in a moment'

Sajjad Butt, Smera Chohan, Franky Lau and Jessie Deng – the parents of Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau who died when a Land Rover ploughed into their school – said in a shared statement: “All the victims of the events of July 6, 2023, did nothing wrong. We were all in the safest place we could have been outside our own homes. We were celebrating a day filled with joy.

“Nuria and Selena’s lives were taken in a moment. So many lives were also irreparably shattered in that moment. Hundreds of people – parents, teachers, children, neighbours, friends and family members – will never lead ‘normal’ lives again. Some of us will never experience joy again.

“We have tried to keep faith in the systems and institutions that are supposed to protect victims and deliver justice to those affected. We have been disappointed by this system. We have already expressed, publicly, our dissatisfaction with the pace of the investigative process.

“It is now clear to us that the depth of the process is questionable too. In the absence of any concrete evidence to the contrary, we can only surmise that the investigation has been equally poor.”

Car collides with primary school building
Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau, both eight, died in the crash in Wimbledon last year -Credit:PA Archive/PA Images

Ms Freemantle, a mother, said that she could not adequately express 'the pain and loss' of what happened.

In a statement to the PA news agency, she said: “Since I became aware of the terrible event that took place on July 6, the devastating consequences for all those affected have not left my thoughts and will be with me for the rest of my life.

“I have since been diagnosed as having suffered an epileptic seizure with loss of consciousness. This was not a pre-existing condition. As a result of losing consciousness, I have no recollection of what took place.

“I can only express my deepest sorrow for the families who have suffered such dreadful loss and injury.

“As a mother, I understand there can be no words that adequately express the pain and loss resulting from what happened in those horrendous moments while I was unconscious.

“My heartfelt sympathy goes out to all of the children and families affected, and especially to the parents of Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau.”

'We are hoping this will provide some clarity as to how this decision was reached'

A statement from Sharon Maher, headteacher at The Study Prep, and Helen Lowe, who was the interim headteacher when the crash happened, said: “We are trying to come to terms with the decision made by the CPS today that has resulted in no further action against the driver following the collision last July which resulted in the death of two of our talented and beautiful eight-year-old girls, Nuria and Selena.

“We are a close-knit school community which has been deeply affected by this incident. We now have the opportunity for the school and parents to ask questions of the police over the coming days and we are hoping this will provide some clarity as to how this decision was reached.

“We ask that you respect our privacy as we move towards the end of our school year. As we do every day, we are thinking of Nuria and Selena and their families, as well as all of the Study community.”

'This condition had never previously manifested itself and Claire had always enjoyed good health'

Mark Jones, partner at Payne Hicks Beach and Claire Freemantle’s solicitor, told the PA news agency: “This is one of the most tragic cases I have dealt with. Our hearts go out to the families involved who have suffered unutterable loss and dreadful injury.

“The Metropolitan Police and the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), after the most thorough investigation, have decided not to prosecute Claire.

“Although she was at the wheel when this shocking accident happened, she was in no sense in control of the vehicle. This incident was through absolutely no fault of her own.

“Tragically, Claire suffered a complete loss of consciousness moments before the incident. This has now been diagnosed as epilepsy; a condition which Claire was completely unaware of before July 6 2023.

“She was unconscious when the car mounted the pavement and crashed into the school playground with such tragic consequences. Claire has no recollection of what took place.”

Mr Jones continued: “This condition had never previously manifested itself and Claire had always enjoyed good health.

“The medical examinations following the crash are authoritative, with different specialists unanimous in their diagnosis. The medical evidence is entirely consistent with eyewitness and video evidence of the crash itself.

“All the evidence shows that the vehicle never changed course or slowed down after it had veered off the road and mounted the pavement.

“A complete forensic post-crash examination of the vehicle showed that consistent pressure was applied to the accelerator from the moment the car left the junction with Camps View and until it came to rest. It also showed that the vehicle was in all ways roadworthy and safe.

“Again, we can only express our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy for those who have suffered through this tragedy. We will be making no further comment.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Clair Kelland, in charge of policing for South West London, offered to meet with the families to answer any questions they had about the investigation.

She said: “This was a deeply tragic incident, the circumstances of which caused widespread shock and sadness.

“The families of Nuria and Selena – who we know are greatly loved and missed – are always in our thoughts, but particularly so in light of this development.

“Throughout the course of this investigation, they have been supported by dedicated family liaison officers. Those officers were present earlier today when the outcome was relayed to the families by the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), and they will continue to support them in any way they can going forward.

“I previously met with both families and have offered to meet them again should they have unanswered questions about the investigation following this outcome.

“Following a lengthy, detailed and complex investigation, a file of evidential material was passed to the CPS for them to consider whether charges were appropriate.

“Having carefully examined all of the information received, they have now confirmed the driver will not face charges.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Kelland added: “Significant inquiries carried out by specialist officers into the events leading up to the collision established that the driver suffered a previously undiagnosed seizure which caused her to lose control of the vehicle.

“Having carried out a detailed examination of her medical records, we know that she couldn’t have predicted or prevented the incident.

“The consequences of this were, as we know, absolutely devastating and the hurt and pain that followed will always be deeply felt.

“I can understand that some may be confused – perhaps even feel let down – by this outcome and want to give every reassurance that our officers worked tirelessly through every detail of the incident to ensure a complete investigation be passed to the CPS.

“To bring charges in cases like this there needs to be an element of responsibility on the part of the driver, and, given the circumstances, this was simply not borne out on this occasion. What happened that day was a very tragic accident which has had a profound impact on the lives of a number of people.

“While our priority has been to support the affected families – including the further six families of those who received injuries – we have also remained in close contact with both the school and local council representatives throughout, updating them on the timeline of the investigation while maintaining the integrity of our inquiries.

“We are grateful for their support and know they understand that it was of paramount importance to ensure the most thorough investigation be undertaken for the sake of all those involved. In the days and weeks ahead we will identify opportunities to speak directly to the local community who we know were also deeply affected by the incident.”