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Derry woman crushed to death by own car

A 68-year-old was crushed to death when she was trapped between her garden wall and the door of her car, Londonderry Coroner's Court found yesterday.

Coroner John Lecky read a statement in court from Deputy State Pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley which stated that Gertrude Cunningham of Oughtagh Road, Derry, died as a result of asphyxia on April 21, 2009.

The statement also said that Mrs Cunningham, who worked as a home help, was found with the upper part of her body inside her car at the driver’s side and the lower part outside the vehicle.

She had leaned into the car in an attempt to apply the hand brake after her Peugeot 406 began to roll forwards towards a wall. However, her attempt failed and she was trapped between the door and the wall.

Mrs Cunningham's husband, Joseph told the court that he had left his wife at home at around 11am that morning to go and visit his niece. He said that his wife told him she was going to visit someone she attended to as a home help later that morning.

Mr Cunningham said he thought it was strange when he returned home at lunchtime and saw his wife's car still outside their home. He said he also noticed how close it was to the wall.

He added: “I leaned into the car from the passenger side and saw Gertrude.

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“I said, ‘What is wrong dear?' but then I noticed how blue she was and I knew then she was dead.”

A forensic examiner at the scene of the accident told the court that in his opinion the car's engine was on and the gear was in neutral when the accident happened.

He believed it had started to roll forward when Mrs Cunningham tried to gain access to apply the hand brake.

He added that because of the slight incline of the laneway and because she was outside the car when she tried to put on the hand brake, she failed.

Instead she was trapped by the door when it impacted with the garden wall, crushing her to death.

Mr Lecky expressed his sympathy to Mr Cunningham.

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