Family pay tribute to Sheffield headteacher killed by woman driving wrong way down motorway
The family of a Sheffield headteacher who was killed by a woman who was driving the wrong way down a motorway have paid tribute to a ‘committed’ and ‘loving’ woman following the jailing of her killer.
Paula Kingdon, aged 64, a former headteacher from Sheffield, was killed on October 31, 2019, when Ann Marie Crook, 43, drove the wrong way down a motorway at more than 90mph and crashed into Ms Kingdon’s vehicle.
Yesterday, at Liverpool Crown Court, Crook was jailed for four years and eight months for her role in Ms Kingdon’s death, and banned from driving for three years.
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Ms Kingdon’s brother, Stephen Sharples, said his sister had been a committed, former headteacher of Westfield Primary School in Chesterfield, a loving aunt to his two children and a caring step-daughter to their stepfather John.
He added: “After a lifetime of devoting herself to others, Paula deserved the chance to enjoy her retirement. She embraced her new life with the same energy and positivity that she had brought to her work, and happily divided her time between seeing family and friends, travelling, going to the theatre, looking after John and following Liverpool FC.
“It is heart-breaking for me that Paula had this wonderful new chapter of her life so cruelly taken away by the senseless actions of a total stranger.”
District Crown Prosecutor Keith Drummond, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: “Ann Marie Crook is a woman of previous good character and had no previous driving convictions.
“But for some reason, on the morning of 31 October 2019, she chose to get behind the wheel of her car and turn that vehicle into a killing machine.
“It might be that she intended to kill herself – we cannot be sure. But she didn’t. Her reckless and dangerous driving took the life of an innocent motorist and has left behind a tragedy of loss and pain for the family of Paula Kingdon.
“Ann Marie Crook pleaded guilty and has accepted her part in the dreadful events of that day. But that won’t bring back Paula Kingdon. A tragic case indeed.”
Crook drove the wrong way down the M57 near Kirkby and Ms Kingdon died from the injuries she received.
Crook, of Cheviot Avenue in St Helens, suffered multiple injuries and spent time in hospital in a critical condition but survived.
She drove a black Renault Clio at up to 94mph on East Lancashire Road before moving into a right-turn filter lane in the run up to the crash. Instead of turning right, witnesses watched in horror as she entered the exit slip road of the M57 in the wrong direction.
Drivers travelling in the right direction flashed their lights at her and sounded their horns to alert her to what she was doing.
Several vehicles narrowly avoided a collision.
Witnesses spoke of Crook looking forward and driving in a determined manner.
She accelerated from the slip road onto the main carriageway and collided with Ms Kingdon’s car almost immediately.
Crook was interviewed by police officers on 29 July 2020. She said that she could not remember anything about the collision. The only conclusion she could come up with was that she had taken a wrong turn and panicked.
She denied she had been trying to commit suicide.