Wimbledon fatal school crash parents search for answers

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By Tom Edwards
BBC News

The parents of a girl killed when a Land Rover crashed through a fence at her school have spoken about the “absolute horror” of that day.

Nuria Sajjad, eight, and her mother Smera Chohan had been taking a photograph together at the preparatory school in Wimbledon when they were hit.

Ms Chohan, who needed several operations, cannot remember the moment of the crash itself.

As the police investigation continues, she is haunted by unanswered questions.

Speaking to the BBC alongside husband Sajjad Butt for the first time since the crash, Ms Chohan said: “My mind goes blank. I didn’t see anything come at me. Because if I had, I would have protected my girl.

“I would have. And I didn’t. So I wake up every morning thinking ‘Could I have picked her up and done something?’ I didn’t see the car come. I didn’t save my girl.”

The Land Rover crashed through the fence just before 10:00 BST on 6 July. If it had happened the following day, the playground would have been empty.

The children and parents of Nuria’s cohort at the all-girls establishment, The Study Preparatory School in Wimbledon, were celebrating the last day of term with a special assembly and picnic.

It was a more significant ending than most, as the autumn term would see the eight and nine-year-olds begin at a different campus.

Nuria’s father said that when people ask how they are, “we always say we are doing the best we can”.

“What we are left with is a deep hole,” he said. “A deep sense of grief. It is truly difficult to find any sense of purpose.

“It is difficult every day to wake up. It is difficult to sleep. At the deepest, deepest level, there is no purpose.

“We lived for our daughter and she lived for life.”

Ms Chohan said: “We are not coping.”

A Land Rover could be seen on school grounds surrounded by emergency responders

Several people were injured, some seriously. Another eight-year-old, Selena Lau, was also killed.

Mr Butt had gone to get himself a cup of coffee and stopped to chat with another parent.

He said: “In a matter of seconds, we went from what should have been one of the happiest days of my daughter’s life, to absolute horror.”

Mr Butt said: “The two people most dear to me in the world, one was taken away and the other thinks it was their fault.

“The morning of the 6 July was planned to be a memorable and truly joyous occasion.

“At the assembly the girls all spoke of their hopes and dreams.”

‘I remember screaming’

Recalling how he heard a crash and saw a car “hurtling in”, Mr Butt said: “I witnessed the car collide with three people. I remember screaming, I remember pain.

“I went into shock and I don’t know how long passed until panic set in. It took some time but I did find Smera and Nuria.

“Nuria was severely injured, physically, visibly, severely. There were a couple of people attending to her.

“At some point the police arrived, at some point the paramedics arrived, at some point the air ambulance arrived and it was clear Nuria was a high priority.

“And I had to make a very difficult decision to leave Smera in the care of the paramedics.”

The family wants to know exactly what happened that July morning.

It has been four months since Nuria’s death and so far they have not had any answers to their questions.

What led to the car losing control? Could anything have been done to prevent it? Who bears responsibility?

Both parents remember a bright, feisty, girl who had a zest for life. A child who was eager for her future and had excitedly planned a party for a birthday she would never see.

Mr Butt said: “One of her teachers described her as a force for good, and she truly was. And that’s been taken away for no reason we can discern.

“We will live with what we have to, because we truly have no choice but to live with this utter despair that we have been left with.”

Ms Chohan said: “There is no future. We had hoped and dreamed with her.

“She was my only, only one. I wake up every morning not ready to face the world without her in it.

“Every day seems like a punishment and we have to carry on and we have to carry on without her. Every breath I take cuts me.

“Our daughter was perfect.”

Her husband echoes her, softly reiterating “yes, she was perfect”.

A woman was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and has been bailed until January.

A Metropolitan Police investigation is ongoing.

A spokesperson said: “We understand the families want and need answers as to what happened. We are continuing to give them specialist support through our dedicated family liaison officers who are providing updates on the investigation where they can.

“Specialist detectives are working tirelessly to establish the circumstances of that day, including analysing CCTV and examining the expert report from forensic collision investigators.

“We recognise that the time taken can cause further distress but it is only right and fair to all involved that we carry out a thorough and extensive investigation.”

An inquest into Nuria’s death has been opened and adjourned.

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