A FORGIVING widow has hugged the driver who knocked down and killed her “wonderful husband", telling him "however bad it was for me, I realise it was 1,000 times worse for you."
Patricia Machin said she “bore no grudge” towards father-of-three Brian Williamson after he received a suspended prison sentence.
Fighting back tears, Patricia, 74, who penned a letter of forgiveness to Williamson just hours before he was sentenced, said: “I don't feel any ill thoughts or grudges towards Brian, not for a single moment, and I know Gerrard wouldn't either.
“It was the worst day of my life and, no doubt, the worst day of Brian's life as well. I've only ever felt sorry for him because who hasn't made a mistake when driving? I've had to get on with my life and I hope he can now do the same.”
She added: “He has suffered enough already and will have to live with what he did. I didn't want to see Brian going to prison; he is someone's son after all.”
Following the Bournemouth Crown Court hearing, Williamson, 30, sobbed as the retired medical secretary tried to console him.
Williamson, who lives in Ardfaeja, Londonderry, and now works in Germany, was employed at Bournemouth airport when tragedy struck at Durley Chine Road on December 2, 2011.
Father-of-two Gerrard Machin, 77, suffered multiple injuries in the crash and died in Poole Hospital on February 5 last year.
Williamson was found guilty of causing retired accountant Mr Machin's death by careless driving. Jurors heard how Patricia had gone to look for her husband when he failed to return to their home on Bournemouth's West Cliff from the newsagents.
She told the court: “Before Gerrard left he said he was going to make a prediction that we were going to have a wonderful Christmas and told me: 'Next year is going to be our year'. We were both so happy and he was full of hope.
“I thought Gerrard had been gone a long time. When I went out I saw Brian, a policeman and an ambulance and thought: 'Oh my goodness maybe Gerrard has witnessed an accident.' Then I saw his blue bag, containing his newspapers, against a wall and knew it was him.”
Despite the terrible shock, Patricia stood with Williamson at the roadside, comforting him in her arms as her husband was being taken away in the ambulance. Jurors heard she made repeated calls to check on his condition after the accident.
In a letter she wrote to the CPS on learning Williamson had been charged with careless driving, she wrote:
"I have never for a single second had any sort of angry or vengeful thoughts towards this young man. Even though at the time (of the accident) I was stood beside a pool of Gerrard's blood .. I felt only pity for the driver."
A “box of treasures” Patricia keeps contains her husband's blue pyjamas and the flat cap he used to doff to her.
She also cherishes his national service medal and a medal for the voluntary work he carried out for the Sacred Heart Church on Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, where they attended together. The retired accountant also leaves a son, Anthony, and daughter Caroline.
Struggling to contain her emotions, Patricia said: "We were incredibly happy and I have to be grateful that we were married, and incredibly happy, for 13 years. Gerrard was an amazing man and a wonderful husband. I loved him so much.”
Williamson told jurors he had been affected by the glare of an oncoming vehicle. But prosecutor Rob Welling said: “If he had been paying proper attention” he would have seen Mr Machin in time to stop.
Summing up the case, Judge Wiggs said that although the pensioner had not been seen to look in either direction he was “entitled” to be able to cross safely.
“He was walking slowly. He appeared stooped and you may think he was not crossing the road in a particularly sensible place. It may be that he should've been looking out a bit better.
“But he is entitled to be able to cross the road safely without being hit by a car which comes around the corner.”
Judge Wiggs imposed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and banned Williamson from driving for two years. He was ordered to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs.
Speaking after the guilty verdict, Williamson said that not a day went by when he did not think about the crash, adding: “My heart and thoughts go out to Mr Machin's family.
“Every day and every time I see a car or pedestrian I think about it. I'm always asking: 'What if? What if I had left 10 seconds later, or earlier, or had gone another way.”
The stocky Irishman told the Daily Echo how much he had appreciated Mr Machin's wife hugging and comforting him, as he stood at the roadside “in bits”.
“It could've happened to anybody in his position or anyone like me, driving around the corner,” he said. “I've been through hell but for it must be 10 times worse for his family.”
Patricia's letter of forgiveness read: “Dear Brian. Today is a very important day and I will be in court to support you. On the day of the accident, however bad it was for me, I realise it was 1,000 times worse for you.
“Neither Gerrard, if he was here, or I feel any sense of condemnation towards you. Will you make me a promise; that you will get on with your young life, knowing that you will always be supported by my prayers?”
Referring to the letter, Williamson's barrister Scott Stemp said: “I struggle to find words to express what is conveyed through the contents and the intentions behind it. It is truly astonishing.”
Before sentencing Williamson, Judge Wiggs told him: “I read the extremely moving letter from Mrs Machin. You are very fortunate to have been forgiven.
“There is no doubt that what happened on that day was a tragedy for everyone, including you. Nevertheless you were responsible.”