Wife of woman killed by Cambridgeshire drink-driver: ‘I do not want hate to destroy me’
The wife of a woman killed by a drink-driver who tried to overtake a tractor on Cambridgeshire’s roads has said rebuilding her life has taken so much effort she does not have room to hate him.
Liam Mansfield, 27, was jailed for six years at Cambridge Crown Court, which heard he was more than double the drink-drink limit after visiting a pub in Pidley when he decided to get behind the wheel of his BMW on August 20 last year.
It was just after 10pm when he tried to overtake the tractor on the A141 between Warboys and Chatteris.
Mansfield, of Bottels Road, Warboys, who was already a disqualified driver, mounted the offside grass verge, lost control and collided head on with a Volkswagen Polo, which was pushed back on its roof.
The driver, Stephanie Rivers, 33, of Coronation Avenue, Warboys, died at the scene, while her wife Debbie Rivers, who was a passenger, suffered serious injuries but was able to call 999.
When officers arrived, Mansfield failed a roadside breath test, giving a reading of 75 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath – more than double the legal limit of.
Later at hospital, a blood test showed 106 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of blood, again above the legal limit of 80 microgrammes.
Officers found a small amount of cannabis in the glovebox of his car and learned that he was disqualified from driving.
Investigations showed Mansfield had been in regular contact with his girlfriend throughout the day and the pair had discussed splitting up.
He had denied the offer of a lift from his girlfriend, who thought he may be drunk, and was caught on CCTV as he left the pub at 9.56pm, calling his girlfriend via a handsfree device in the car. The call was still active at the time of the crash.
A post-mortem examination concluded Mrs Rivers died as a result of blunt force trauma from the collision.
Her mother, Patricia Rivers, and sister, Tracy Leaper, said in a tribute at the time: “Steph was a kind, caring, beautiful, animal-loving daughter, wife, sister and auntie. She will be forever loved and truly missed by all who were lucky enough to have known her.”
In a heartbreaking personal victim statement read out in court, which you can read in full here, Debbie told Mansfield: “I do not want this statement to be full of hate. Hate is a wasteful emotion, and I do not want hate to destroy me more than I am already. Rebuilding your life alone takes so much effort, I do not have room in my life to hate. I do not hate you Liam. I hope you listen to my words and can in some small way understand how you, who was nothing to me, has changed my life more powerfully, completely, and irrevocably than any other person before you and God willing after you.
“I found out while I was in hospital that Steph, my best friend, my wife was gone forever. In that car I really believed she was just taking longer to wake up despite how much and how hard I tried to wake her with what little strength I had. Imagine lying immobile, injured, in pain, confused and then hear those words.
“Your wife has died, your dog is in the vets for emergency treatment, you yourself nearly died at more than one point that night and after, and now you must wait to see if the baby you both had been longing for was there. It is hard to imagine, even harder still to experience. How do you come to terms with the fact this is now your reality, your life has been stolen from you and what was given back was not what you wanted; having to learn to walk, feed yourself, wash yourself and toilet yourself again?
“You have left me helpless since the day our paths crossed.”
She added: “Your actions ripped that apart and have left a void so immense and extensive it feels as if the whole world could be sucked into it.”
Forensic collision investigations revealed Mansfield’s phone use and level of intoxication were significant factors in causing the fatal crash.
In interview, Mansfield told police he remembered being in the pub but nothing further until he woke up in hospital.
He claimed he could not remember drinking “that much” but admitted he could have got a lift home from family members.
He accepted his actions were dangerous and wll below that of a competent and careful driver.
He also admitted the cannabis was his and that he was a regular user.
But he claimed he did not believe he was disqualified as his driving licence had been returned to him.
In court, Mansfield admitted causing death by dangerous driving, driving while uninsured and possessing a class B drug.
In addition to his six-year prison sentence, he was disqualified from driving for eight years.
Det Sgt Mark Dollard, of Cambs police’s serious collision investigation unit, said: “This is another heartbreaking case which beggars belief. Mrs Rivers would still be alive had Mansfield not decided to get behind the wheel after drinking and perform the overtake that he did.
“His driving was simply not good enough; he knew he had consumed alcohol but selfishly had no regard for the safety of others.
“Drink driving is illegal, dangerous and truly ruins lives. People can help us make the roads of Cambridgeshire safer for everyone by confidentially reporting others they suspect of driving while under the influence.”
Cambridgeshire police recently spoke to a mother whose 22-year-old daughter was killed in a collision caused by a drink-driver. You can hear her heart-breaking story in this podcast.
The force operates a dedicated, 24/7 confidential hotline for members of the public to report drink-driving or drug-driving at 0800 032 0845.
The force’s dedicated web page on drink and drug-driving can be found at https://bit.ly/38DKIe9