One Moment of Madness
Ann Hannon's son Matt, 22, was the centre of her family but on January 9th her world was ripped apart when he was killed in a tragic accident over which his best friend Steve Hayhurst, 23, admitted causing death by dangerous driving. But instead of casting blame, Ann and her husband Terry, 46, forgave Steven and even pleaded with the judge to keep him out of prison, and now look on him as an 'adopted son'.
Here Ann, 44, from Blackburn, Lancashire, tells her remarkable story: 'I will never forget 9 January this year. We had all had a lovely family Christmas and my son Matt had been on good form.
As we celebrated the start of the New Year I knew we had a lot to be looking forward to as a family. We had planned so much for 2006, celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary year with holidays, parties and family meals with our three children, Matt, Colette, 19, and Rebecca, 13. But little did I know that within the first days of 2006 our life was to change forever.
I had spoken on the phone to Matt 15 minutes before Terry and I set off for an evening power walk. He was on his way to visit us and show off his new Renault Clio car he had bought two days before and he was full of life.
As Terry and I walked we heard an almighty crash at about 8.40pm. My heart pierced at the noise, it was as if a plane was crashing, it was the most frightening thing I have ever heard and it still haunts me today. 'What was that?' I asked Terry. 'It's a crash, come on let's go and see if we can help,' he said. I told Terry that I would go home as I was quite squeamish. 'It might be someone's son who needs help, it might be our son,' he told me.
Terry left me to offer his help and I ran home shaking at the sound of fire engines, police cars and ambulances rushing to the scene less than half a mile away from our home. As I made my way to the front door I was greeted by the sight of my 13-year-old daughter shaking, with a horrified expression on her face, with the phone in her hand. It was Terry on the phone, I picked it up and he didn't need to say anything, I just said: 'I know it's Matt, I'm coming straightaway.'
Fear flowed through me, I was in shock, I jumped into the car and made my way to the scene in Livesey Branch Road, there was traffic and a crowd of people and I just had to get through to see my son. Terry had arrived at the scene and had recognised Matt's number plate on his new car. He had seen a lad lying on the ground dying, it was our son. Terry was in shock, he had not really imagined it be Matt. As I reached the crash scene, I remember the devastation hitting me, the mangled car, then I saw Terry standing there, with the most frightened, lost sad expression, he looked totally helpless. I felt as if I was in a scene from Casualty, it was totally surreal and everything was in slow motion. I just had to get to my son and try to comfort him but as soon as the police realised I was his mother they wouldn't let me through. Matt was lying in someone's garden and I just wanted to touch him but they wouldn't let me.
Hysterical I was taken into a police car and driven to the accident and emergency department nearby. We were taken into a side room and told by the doctor that Matt had died as a result of a massive head injury caused by the impact. I couldn't take it in, I didn't want it to be true, I kept saying no, he can't be dead there must be something you can do. An hour later I saw his body in the mortuary. It was the most heartbreaking thing that I have seen.
There lying in front of me was my lovely Matt, my first born. I couldn't take it in. Why me, Why Matt, Why us? I said to myself. It was too cruel for us to have heard the crash that caused our son's death and then to be at the scene, it just seemed so unfair. It wasn't until a bit later that we learnt the full facts of what had happened that night.
Matt and his best friend Steve Hayhurst were driving on Livesey Branch Road. Matt was actually driving along at 30mph initially when Steve decided to overtake him.
The final leg of the race came about when Matt overtook Steve and he was killed instantly when his Renault Clio clipped a bollard and hit a parked van. This was not something they normally did they were usually very sensible lads and never in any kind of trouble. They had been best pals since they were nine and had always shared a passion for cars.
Steven had escaped without injury and he rushed to Matt's side and held him as he died. Steven was distraught. Matt had been his best friend and they loved each other. Because Matt had died Steve was charged with causing Matt's death by dangerous driving but it was not something he had intended to do, it was just a moment of madness.
Despite our total devastation at losing our son Terry and I talked about what had happened, we knew Steve had been charged and could face prison for our son's death. But we both knew that Matt loved Steve like a brother and that if Matt had been alive they both would have taken responsibility for what happened and not blamed each other.
I remember Matt and Steve playing together as children, they bonded over their love of cars and although they went to different schools they were inseparable. Matt was a beautiful child, always cheeky and full of life. I saw the boys grow into men and I was proud of the way they had turned out and that their friendship had lasted through the years.
Steven was always in our house and I remember how they used to play together and have sleepovers. As I thought back to those days of them playing innocently as boys I knew that Matt wouldn't want his best friend to go to prison and so Terry and I decided to offer him our support and not blame him for what had happened.
Terry invited Steve over to our house two days after Matt died and he just held his head, he was full of shame and sadness. But we sat him down and told him that we would support him and that we would like him to be a pall bearer at Matt's funeral. Steve was amazed that we didn't blame him and accepted the offer to take a role in Matt's funeral.
The funeral was on January 20 and it was the saddest day ever. Hundreds of people packed the church and we played Coldplay's Fix You. Matt was cremated and we have buried some of his ashes by our family grave and we are going to get the rest of his ashes made into a diamond that can be kept in the family. After the funeral we had the prospect of Steve's court case to cope with. Steve was told that the minimum sentence was two years in jail.
We didn't want Steve to go to jail, we felt that Matt wouldn't have wanted that and we had lost our son and we didn't want anyone else to go through the same pain. In August Steve went to court and admitted causing death by dangerous driving. Sentencing was put off until September and Steve was facing a custodial sentence. Steve and our family have grown closer since Matt died and he comes over every week for a drink and a chat.
We have grown to look on him as an adopted son and on Matt's birthday on August 26 we held a party at which we presented Steve with a framed photo of Matt and everyone sent up balloons into the air, Terry and Steve's balloons with messages for Matt were sent up together.
We also asked all our friends and family to support Steve, it was a very emotional day for everyone. When Steve's case came up at court we pleaded with the judge to keep him out of jail. The court heard that Steve had been a pall bearer at Matt's funeral, we met every week and had come to regard him as an adopted son and that Matt would not have wanted his best friend to go to jail.
We can never bring Matt back but if we can save another family from going through this then it will have done some good. The night Matt died will haunt me until the day I die. My heart is broken. My one comfort is that we have Matt's dog Khyra with us and she offers me a lot of comfort.
I will take her to Matt's grave and we will sit for hours with him. I miss his kisses and strong arms and just little things like him walking into our house with a big 'hiya mum'and to know I will never talk to him again breaks my heart'.
Find out what happened to Steven : Steven's Story