Family fights for justice for Thornton Heath Olympics worker Errol Strachan killed by athlete
The widow of an Olympics worker run over and killed by an athlete is to fight for justice for her husband in a Greek court.
Errol Strachan, 45, of Frant Road, Thornton Heath, died of multiple injuries when a car driven by a Danish yachtsman struck him just hours before he was due to return home from the 2004 Athens games, where he had been working as a catering contractor.
An inquest held at Croydon Coroner's Court on Thursday heard witnesses said Nicklas Holm, then 23 and a member of Denmark's Olympic sailing team, had been driving at 80kmph when Mr Strachan, a dad-of-two, stepped out into the road in the seaside resort of Glyfada on August 15.
The speed limit of the road was 50 kmph, which Mr Holm, who had been driving in a lane specially designated for those involved in the Olympics, insisted he had not exceeded.
The yachtsman said he felt "no guilt" about Mr Strachan's death and competed in the games just six days later.
But in 2010 a Greek court convicted him of manslaughter by dangerous driving and sentenced him to eight months in prison. Judges overturned the verdict on appeal in April 2011.
Heartbroken Hazel Brown-Strachan, who married Mr Strachan in 1993, had a claim for compensation rejected by a Greek civil court earlier this year after judges decided he was responsible for his own death.
But the 53-year-old pledged to continue battling to prove her husband's death could have been avoided, encouraged by a coroner who last week opted not to label Mr Strachan's death an accident.
She said: "We heard at the inquest there is no way that this man was travelling at 30mph. If he had been, Errol would be alive today. There are witnesses who saw how fast he was driving and he took no evasive action. And he has shown no remorse."
Mr Strachan - who moved to Croydon from Portland, Jamaica in 1990 - had been crossing to get cash out of machine on his last night in Athens, where he had been posted for four days by employer Admirable Crichton, when he was hit.
In his appeal hearing, Mr Holm - who did not attend the initial trial - told the court: "I saw the deceased when he was hit. I couldn't see him before. He came out suddenly in front of me."
But Mrs Brown-Strachan, who was separated from her husband but remained close to him before his death, was stunned by the acquittal.
Lawyers for Mr Strachan's are to appeal in the civil court in February.
They will point out he was thrown 40m down the road by the collision and are to ask Volvo, the manufacturer's of Mr Holm's car, whether extensive damage - including a smashed windscreen - could have been inflicted by a low-speed crash.
Miss Brown-Strachan, a social worker, said: "If we lose the appeal, the next step up would be the European Court of Human Rights and I don't have the money to do that, so it would be the end of the road."
She said Mr Strachan's death had been devastating for his children - 21-year-old son Jermaine and 27-year-old Sharnette, both from an earlier relationship - adding: "Jermaine was just a kid when it happened so it was especially hard for him.
"Everybody who knew Errol loved him. I thought he was my soulmate. The community still hasn't really recovered. He was hard-working individual who was never given the opportunity to say goodbye to us."
At a long-delayed inquest into Mr Strachan's death at South London Coroner's Court on Thursday, Dr Roy Palmer recorded a narrative verdict, concluding simply he had been killed by collision.
Miss Brown-Strachan: "Even though the coroner said his hands were tied, that was a result for me, just to hear that he did not believe it was an accident. That gives us something to build on.
"It has been nine years now and we are still fighting. We have endured nine years of indifference and silence. We are just trying to get justice."
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