Death crash was no accident

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A MAN who lived as a woman was killed when he deliberately drove his car into an oncoming vehicle on a South Yorkshire road.

The death of Stephen Rockman - who preferred to be known as Stephanie - was not an accident but there was insufficient evidence to prove he intended to take his own life, a coroner decided.

A police investigator told the Doncaster inquest if there had been enough evidence it would have been the first known case of suicide by crashing into a moving vehicle in South Yorkshire.

An Edlington father and his teenage daughter who were in the car Mr Rockman collided with were both seriously injured but survived the 60mph impact.

Mr Rockman, aged 44, had mental health issues in the months leading up to his death, with attempts at self-harm following the breakdown of his marriage and issues over his gender and finances.

After his wife Sharon separated from him he spent a solitary Christmas 2009 at home in Arden Gate, Balby, before setting off in his S-reg Vauxhall Astra on the morning of December 29.

Ford Fiesta driver Philip Balfour, of Roberts Road, Edlington, was taking his 18-year-old daughter, Laura, to a hospital appointment when he saw the Astra coming in the opposite direction on Broomhouse Lane.

He told the inquest: “Another vehicle came over the brow of the bridge over the A1(M) on its correct side of the road. The car started to move on to my side. I tried to swerve at the last minute but it drove straight into us.

“It was pretty quick. It felt like he was driving quicker than we were.”

Mr Balfour suffered a fractured spine, multiple bruising and torn ligaments in the collision and Laura was also badly hurt with a fractured arm and serious abdominal injuries.

Accident investigator John Bashforth said their injuries were not as serious as Mr Rockman’s because their car was much newer and had better safety features.

Mr Rockman, a security officer, was still alive at the roadside but died from multiple injuries shortly after arriving at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. There was no alcohol or drugs in his body.

Mr Bashforth said there was no evidence that Mr Rockman’s car had needed to swerve to avoid anything and the collision was caused by him “travelling on the wrong side of the road, the fault lies with the Vauxhall driver. It would need an input from the driver to crash into another vehicle”.

The investigator said in 850 fatal or serious crash investigations he had never come across one where a driver has driven at another car and there were no records of any.

Deputy Coroner Fred Curtis said it was fortunate Mr Balfour and Laura had survived the crash and their situation attracted considerable sympathy because they were “wholly innocent”.

Mr Curtis said there were difficulties in reaching a verdict of suicide because he had to be satisfied that what happened was intended to cause Mr Rockman’s death.

A note found in his kitchen could not be interpreted as a suicide note although it referred to some of his problems.

A neighbour had expressed concern about his behaviour and had noticed a ligature mark on his neck and on another occasion police had taken Mr Rockman to St Catherine’s Hospital for a mental assessment after being found threatening to jump off a bridge.

Mr Curtis said: “It is clear he was not going to have any family support so he went home to a rather desperate and solitary situation and was observed by his neighbour acting oddly.

“I know he had talked about suicide on previous occasions and had taken steps towards committing suicide on several occasions.

“If he did intend to commit suicide it seems the method he chose was very unusual and selfish because it involved innocent people.

“The evidence is really very difficult to interpret and if I have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill himself, I have great difficulty in reaching that conclusion, so I shall record an open verdict.”