Mother makes tearful apology in court after hitting school children with car
A mother-of-two has made a tearful apology to the families of those injured when she drove her 4×4 into a group of children outside a primary school.
Eight pupils and parents were standing outside Beatrix Potter Primary School in Openview, Earlsfield, south-west London, when they were struck by the Toyota Rav4 at just after 3pm on September 8 2020.
A seven-year-old boy with his back to the car was knocked into the air, while others as young as six were trapped under the vehicle.
Dolly Rincon-Aguilar, 39, from Wandsworth, south London, who was picking up children from the school, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
I want to be able to tell them I’m so sorry... A school should feel safe. It is just so upsetting
The green vehicle mounted the pavement, hit a tree and then a wall before accelerating to the school entrance where the group of parents and children were standing, Kingston Crown Court has heard.
Jurors were told that Rincon-Aguilar pressed her 4×4’s accelerator instead of the brake as she tried to stop the car while it ploughed forward.
Giving evidence on Wednesday, the 39-year-old became tearful as she apologised to the victims and their families.
Asked by defence barrister Ian Henderson QC how the incident had affected her, she said: “I think just my heart is broken in two.
“I just wish that I could take away all the pain and all the frustration.”
She added: “I want to be able to tell them I’m so sorry because it is the only thing I want to say to them,” before naming all those who were injured.
“A school should feel safe,” she said. “It is just so upsetting.”
The jury heard that Rincon-Aguilar, who got her UK driving licence for an automatic vehicle in 2019, had not been drinking or taking drugs and had no health issues or problems at home.
She also confirmed there were no obstructions due to the weather, no distractions like the radio playing and her mobile phone was in her pocket while the vehicle had MOT, tax and insurance.
“When I drive to the school, I always take my time because there are children around and it can be difficult to see them,” she said.
“I took a few minutes to take to the road, making sure to look in the mirrors.
“I just put the car in drive and just indicated, checked mirrors, checked mirrors again and indicated and just tried to take the road.
“I did press the accelerator gently and the next thing the car just went through the road and it was just so fast and just hit the tree.
“It finished so fast. We were heading towards the main gate, and I thought, I don’t know, ‘Just stop’.
“When the car wasn’t stopping I just thought ‘handbrake, handbrake’.”
The best way I describe Dolly is that she is an extraordinarily caring individual
Rincon-Aguilar told the court she later recognised one of the mothers, saying: “She was so scared.”
“It is your community, it is your school. I have been there for 10 years. It is the place that you love,” she said.
The court heard that she spoke to the police without a solicitor. She said: “I decided to speak because I was just there and I was losing my mind.”
Becoming tearful, she added that it was “out of respect for the families”.
Asked about the police’s conclusion that there was “pedal misapplication” where she is likely to have pressed the accelerator rather than the brake, she said: “I think that is all right.”
Character witnesses described the defendant as a “cautious” and “conscientious” person who acts with common sense and puts all children first, not just her own.
Rincon-Aguilar’s close friend Karen Duque said: “Dolly is just the most kind and most generous and most selfless person I have ever met.”
Her father-in-law Neil Livingston described her as “honest, forthright, rather shy” and “a lovely person”.
Another friend, Alan Nolan, said: “The best way I describe Dolly is that she is an extraordinarily caring individual.
“I have no reason to think that she is anything other than 100% honest.”
The jury was sent out to consider its verdict on Tuesday afternoon.
In his closing speech, Nathan Rasiah QC, prosecuting, said: “The true verdict in this case is, regretfully, guilty of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.”
But Mr Henderson asked the jury to find the defendant not guilty.
He said: “Dolly Rincon-Aguilar was involved in this heart-breaking and terribly sad incident outside the back gate of Beatrix Potter School on September 8 2020.
“This has been hanging over her for nearly two years. You understand the toll that these proceedings have taken on her.”
Eleven people, including seven children, were treated by medic at the scene in September 2020, with four adults and five children taken to hospital while two children were discharged.
Two victims had fractures to the face and skull, with one requiring emergency treatment to remove a blood clot.
Some of the children were left with “serious” fractures to the leg, arm and eye socket.