Family of Exeter mum killed by laughing gas driver left speechless over sentence

The heartbroken family of a woman who was killed by a driver inhaling laughing gas and running a red light are considering appealing what they say is a lenient sentence. Harry Lock’s car hit and fatally injured mother-of-three Maria Perez-Gonzalez while she was crossing the road in Western Way, Exeter.

Lock, aged 24, of Shortwood Crescent, Plymouth, admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison with a two-year disqualification. Maria's eldest son Edgar has described the despair and anger he felt at hearing the sentence.

"I was speechless," he said. "When hearing he would only be serving one year and six months in jail and the remaining on probation I felt the rush of rage, anger and helplessness."

He said the emotions were similar to those he felt when his mother was hit by Lock on August 7, 2021. He was inhaling nitrous oxide as he drove through a red light and hit Maria while she crossed Western Way on her bicycle.

Lock had ignored requests from his passenger to stop consuming the substance, the court heard. Fifty-three-year-old Maria, a healthcare assistant from Exeter, died in hospital from her injuries two days later.

Edgar said: "I had prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the outcome of the case. I was aware no sentencing would seem sufficient or appropriate.

"I was also aware that Harry Lock would be receiving a decrease in sentencing for declaring himself guilty of all charges. The lawyers and detectives worked themselves endlessly to collect all the evidence and created a great case to confirm every fact presented the day of sentencing."

He said Maria's family had endured three years of mourning waiting for the case to be resolved with Lock stalling on his plea until the last minute.

"I had hopes in the system and believed that her life would serve as an example to other drivers," said Edgar. "That it would shed light to the cyclists in the town of Exeter that suffered similar accidents and show how vulnerable pedestrians are. However, after the sentencing it was clear that our lives are worthless.

"As my brother Christopher stated, 'The fact that an individual can recklessly cause the death of a beloved family member, using illegal substances behind the wheel and ultimately receive less than two years in prison seems entirely unjust to me. I don’t believe this sentencing and the culmination of the process actually serves as a positive reflection of the judicial system. This individual will spend less time in prison than we had to wait to get to this point'."

He said the judge 'over-emphasized' Lock's clean record and no previous convictions and his act of good character by calling emergency services. "I feel as he was mainly convicted for driving under the influence not for the multiple charges he had such as driving under the influence and the death of my mother," says Edgar.

"Harry Lock prolonged the case by months by first placing the blame on my mother. Then, pleading conditionally guilty and lastly, the day of court on June 11 changing his statement and accepting all charges and guilty to all accusations." He said the judge went too far in giving Lock credit for his guilty plea.

The family has now contacted a lawyer for advice on an appeal to the Attorney General and will be proceeding with a civil case.

In his victim statement to court Edgar said "She was a mother, a provider, a grandmother, a best friend, a daughter.

"On August 8, 2021, I received a call that broke hope, excitement and took happiness and life away from me. I lost my best friend, the grandmother to my kids, my mother.

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"We would speak of her growing old and being with her grandchildren and travelling the world. My mother always fought for what she had and worked very hard to achieve all her goals despite every obstacle.

"She was strong women who started her day with a run regardless of the weather. She was a woman that motivated me to be a better man and a great father.

"On August 8 I was robbed of my lifeline. I would never hear her words of wisdom. Instead, I was left to pre-recorded voicemail messages that I would reply to help me get through my days. I was left reading old text messages, old birthday wishes.

"I can fill in pages and write a book about her life, every accomplishment and everyone she helped. She was a woman that had so much to give and so much more to accomplish."