Grieving family of Sheffield student killed by drunk driver back safety campaign

Student Robert Henry who was killed by a drunk driver.
Student Robert Henry who was killed by a drunk driver.

The grieving family of a Sheffield university student killed when he was knocked off his bike by a drunk driver have given their backing to a new road safety drive.

24-year-old Robert Henry, who was studying for a Masters in Architecture after achieving a first-class undergraduate degree at the University, died in October 2015 after his bike was smashed into from behind by a van on Crookes Valley Road.

Robert, of Greater Manchester, died of his injuries at the scene and his family have spoken out in support of charity Brake’s Road Safety Week as they aim to prevent other families from suffering the devastating loss of a loved one.

The driver of the van, Shane McGrory, 31 of Castlebeck Road, Castlebeck, was convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and he was sentenced to nine years in prison at Sheffield Crown Court in April this year.

The court heard that Mr McGrory’s erratic driving had prompted two separate members of the public to report him on the police’s non-emergency number 101, and that following the collision with Robert’s bicycle, Mr McGrory fled the scene at speed, initially on the opposite carriageway and then swerving back and forth. Mr McGrory later crashed into three parked cars, causing £2,860 worth of damage.

He was later picked up by police at his mother's address on the evening of the collision and taken to the police station to provide breath samples. The samples showed him to be three times over the blood alcohol limit.

Following Robert’s death, his family instructed specialist road collision lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. Now, with their legal team, they are supporting Road Safety Week, an initiative of the road safety charity, Brake.

His mother, Andrea, 63 from Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, said: “My heart remains broken since the loss of Robert. Every morning I wake up, and feel sick as reality kicks in and I know I will never see my son again.”

“No mother should feel like this. That is why I am speaking out in support of Road Safety Week. I hope that by telling my story, people will realise the devastating impact their selfish and reckless actions can have on families such as ours, if they get behind the wheel drunk.”

Since Robert’s death, the University of Sheffield has set up an annual Robert Henry Prize for Photography and Film for students studying Architecture. There was also a memorial tree planting ceremony at the University.

To mark the first anniversary of Robert’s death, a memorial gathering of family, students and staff at the Arts Tower and later a large framed picture of Robert’s work was hung in the corridor outside the studio where he studied.

Andrea added: “I am thankful to the University of Sheffield for all they have done to keep Robert’s memory alive. The memorial was obviously a very emotional day, but it makes me proud to know Robert’s legacy will go on.”

Ashwini Kamath, the expert road collision lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Robert’s death was heartbreaking, tragic and unnecessary and highlights the devastating consequences of drink-driving.

“At Irwin Mitchell, we see on a daily basis the impact that road collisions have on families and it is crucial that other drivers take note of this case and the consequences of dangerous driving and speeding, and, particularly in the build-up to the festive season, that they don’t drink and drive so as to reduce the risk of similar tragedies in future.

“We also want to raise the public’s awareness that they can and should contact the police if they witness any incidents of dangerous driving,

“That is why we are proud to support Brake’s Road Safety Week, in the hope that another family will not have to suffer like Andrea and her family have.”