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Ipswich woman who died in van crash had argument with partner, inquest heard

08:17 19 February 2016

The scene of the crash at the junction of Bramford Road and Sproughton Road

The scene of the crash at the junction of Bramford Road and Sproughton Road

The family of a woman who died in a crash in October 2014 say they have been left with “unanswered questions” about her death following an inquest yesterday.

Helen Scoines, 48, of Lone Barn Court, Ipswich, died on October 6 2014 after the van she was driving crashed into a wall at the junction of Bramford Road with Sproughton Road shortly after 11pm, leaving her with fatal head injuries.

At her inquest, held at IP-City Centre in Ipswich yesterday, evidence was heard from investigating officers that Helen had been involved in an argument with partner John Potkins, 46, prior to the crash.

The inquest heard that the pair were seen arguing outside their home by witnesses who described seeing him use “abusive language” and “push her to the floor”.

During the hearing, Mr Potkins denied he had abused her.

Helen then got into the driver side seat of the white Vauxhall Combo van they shared, with Mr Potkins climbing into the back of the van before she drove off, the inquest was told.

A police investigation observed CCTV cameras in the area, and took witness statements, of which several noted the van travelling at an “excessive” speed in the 30mph limit area.

The inquest heard that the van touched a portion of the pavement, which caused it to spin, first striking a traffic light pole on the driver’s side, before making impact with the wall.

A forensic investigation by police revealed that Helen had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Enquiries by police had considered the possibility Helen had been distracted from inside by Mr Potkins, although officers found no evidence of marks on either of them to suggest there had been contact, it was heard.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Mr Potkins admitted that he could not remember what had happened after getting into the van.

Pc Andrew Fossey told the inquest that “no evidence” had been found of a distraction from inside the van, but admitted that “it couldn’t be ruled out”.

The inquest heard that Mr Potkins had also suffered head injuries in the crash, requiring more than 100 stitches.

A post-mortem examination revealed Helen had just 18mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – well below the legal limit to drive, and officers indicated there was “no evidence she was using a mobile phone”.

Mr Potkins had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and abuse charges in the aftermath of his recovery, but the Crown Prosecution Service found there was not enough evidence to charge him. The police and the family both unsuccessfully appealed against the CPS decision, the inquest was told.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean recorded a narrative verdict, and said: “We do not know what happened in the vehicle that night.

“We cannot and do not know exactly what happened to cause the very tragic impact itself, but clearly it was an impact that led to the loss of Helen.

“My thoughts are very much with the family and all those touched by the events.”

The inquest heard that Helen had expressed to friends plans to leave Mr Potkins, but did not want to do so on his birthday – the night of her death. Paying tribute to Helen, her family said in a statement: “Our daughter Helen was gentle, caring and generous. She had only that day begun a new career opportunity and was looking forward to a brighter future where her enthusiasm, creativity and friendly nature could shine.

“She is dearly missed and her sudden loss in unresolved circumstance was cruel in every way.

“A number of questions surrounding Helen’s death remain unanswered, as only the people involved in the incident know the truth of what happened.

“Despite a full investigation into the circumstances we remain unclear on how Helen came to crash the vehicle she was driving. Our thoughts today remain with our daughter, who will forever be in our memories.”

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