Alcohol tragedy took wife and brother

COLIN Hales' wife was killed by a drink driver 11 years ago.Today, the 47-year-old added his voice to The Evening Star's Christmas anti-drink drive campaign, in a bid to prevent drinkers from getting behind the wheel.

COLIN Hales' wife was killed by a drink driver 11 years ago.

Today, the 47-year-old added his voice to The Evening Star's Christmas anti-drink drive campaign, in a bid to prevent drinkers from getting behind the wheel.

Sue Hales, was a passenger in a car which split in two when it hit a lamppost in Spring Road, Ipswich on May 31, 1993, just six days after her 28th birthday.

Her death was the third tragedy in a matter of months for Mr Hales, who has even more reason to detest alcohol as his 39-year-old brother, Eddy, died only a short time before.

Mr Hales, who lives in east Ipswich, said: "People don't realise the damage alcohol can do. They (the government) are harping on about guns and knives, but if you are drinking and get in a car you could take five people out in another car or ten people out at a bus shelter.

"If you happened to kill somebody it affects not only the family of the victim, but the family of the drink driver as well. The implications are absolutely horrendous for everybody.

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"I think the sentencing guidelines should be changed. If you knew you were going to get a jail sentence for drink driving you would think twice."

Mr Hales said he believed convicted drink drivers responsible for injuring others should been given compulsory jail terms. He would like to see a mandatory five-year sentence for serious injuries and a ten-year term for causing a fatal crash.

His wife died as she returned from a night out with a friend.

The driver Mark Twaits, of Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, was jailed for 33-months at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court on April 18, 1994. He was also banned from driving for five years.

The 29-year-old was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol. An appeal against his jail sentence failed in November that year.

During his trial the court heard Twaits had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.

He and Mrs Hales had got into his Austin Rover after leaving friends in Windsor Road and Twaits then drove at speeds of more than 60mph in Spring Road, before losing control of the vehicle at 3.15am.

The car was sliced in two by the collision with a post.

It was left to police to inform Mr Hales of his wife's death.

Reliving the moment he was told of the tragedy Mr Hales said: "How do you feel? How do you describe it? Everything is just numb.

"Sue was a 28-year-old with her whole life in front of her. She was happy, had a great sense of humour and a pretty girl.

"I had just lost my father and brother. Then it was Sue. It was just dire. She had three sisters and lovely parents. The whole family was absolutely crushed.

"The pain never goes away. It's something you learn to live with. Every year I wonder how things would have been for her and how things would have turned out."

Mrs Hales' death compounded the loss of Mr Hales brother Eddy, who lost his battle with the bottle just a short time before.

Mr Hales said: "Drink did that to him. Eddy had a few personal problems and turned to the bottle as a prop.

"What a death for someone who had never done any harm to anyone.

"He was a lovely, lovely bloke. He never seemed drunk. He was full of life and wouldn't offend anyone."

But it is the scourge of drink driving that makes Mr Hales particularly angry and he is urging people to think anyone tempted to get behind a wheel after drinking to think again.

He said: "What if it were their sister, their wife, their mother or even their child, they could be running over."

Mr Hales added in a strange way the impact of losing his wife was not as great as it might have been as he was still shellshocked from the loss of his father and brother.

He said: "You never get over it. They are gone, but they are always in your thoughts. I feel cheated in a lot of ways. Life is cruel but when it is taken from you through ignorance, that's when it is particularly cruel.

"Drink driving is not an accident. It's a premeditated act. It's a bit like having a loaded gun, but people still go out and do it, even after being warned."

The Evening Star will be reporting all drink driving cases which come through the courts in Ipswich during the Christmas and New Year Period.

What do you think of this story? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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