Mum-of-two killed as she ‘sang and zigzagged’ across M62 after night out

A mum-of-two was knocked down and killed by a car after wandering onto a motorway as she walked home from a night out.

Primary school assistant Karen Waller, 42, was seen "singing and zigzagging" near a slip road after she left a friend’s home at midnight following a nightcap.

Moments later she was hit by a Vauxhall Insignia travelling at 60mph after she wandered onto an unlit Eastbound stretch of the M62 near Junction 12 at Birchwood, near Warrington, Cheshire.

Ms Waller died at the scene from multiple injuries.

Police discovered the driver, who had been returning home from holiday with his wife, only spotted Miss Waller at the last moment in the darkness and was unable to stop in time.

An inquest in Warrington heard the tragedy occurred on May 17 after Miss Waller had decided to go out to the Poacher pub in Birchwood with her boyfriend and another couple after drinking vodka and lager.

Friend Kirsty McNulty said: "We were just chatting and having a laugh. We went out to the Poachers pub near mine and she was fine, but as we were walking, she lost her foot on the kerb and fell over just across the road from the pub.

"She injured her lip and it bled. She was more upset than anything that she had fallen over. I helped her up and we went and sat down on a bench.

"We then went back to mine. We didn’t exactly have an argument, but I did tell her to calm down and, next thing I knew, she was gone.

"I know she lives in Oakwood and that she walked to the end of the road towards Forest Park. I followed her, but I couldn’t see her.

"I walked towards Forest Park and I was shouting for her. I walked after her for about 10 minutes, but it was quite dark in the park and I couldn’t see anything.

"I went back home and discovered that she had left her mobile phone. She was drinking, but I wouldn’t say that she was paralytic. I had a couple more drinks and then I went to bed. I just assumed that she had gone home."

Miss Waller’s boyfriend Lee Fellowes said: "We were invited by Kirsty McNulty to come to her house to have a drink with her and her partner. We are friends and have known each other for a few years.

"We went to the local Spar and got a litre bottle of vodka and some cans of Stella Artois. I went ahead to the Poachers Pub and at 11pm, both Karen and Kirsty came to the pub.

"I saw Karen on a picnic bench and Kirsty asked us to come out as she had fallen over and I noticed that Karen was drunk. We decided to walk back to Kirsty’s because it was a short walk away.

"I remember somebody mentioning getting a taxi as Karen was in no fit state to walk home. She got angry when we got back and she left the living room, then I heard the door open and shut. I asked Kirsty to look for her and she came back and said that Karen has got into a taxi.

"It wasn’t until the next day that we noticed that she had left her mobile phone. Then, later that day, I was notified that Karen had been found dead. It caused me huge upset."

Thomas Kelly, a lorry driver, said: "On the evening of May 16, I was working a night shift. I parked up in Birchwood near the M62 motorway. I had a short sleep, but I was awoken by somebody either singing or arguing. I could not determine exactly what she was doing, but she was walking in zig-zags on a no through road towards the M62.

"She must’ve been singing because she was with nobody. She passed a trailer and I did not see her again. I later saw on the motorway a board lit up saying ‘pedestrian on motorway’ and I called the police."

Off duty PC Paul Hayes said: "At 12:05am, I was on the M62 and I indicated to come off and got up towards the A574. I don’t recall the road lights working at the time. Half way up the slip road, I noticed a female walking towards me. I was going at around 50 to 60mph.

"For the brief moment I saw her, she didn’t seem confused so I didn’t think that she was intoxicated. My initial thought was that she had lost something from her vehicle and she went back to get it.

"I couldn’t turn the vehicle around and go back down the slip road. I was also wearing all black, so it would not have been safe for me to go down on foot, and, as a lone female, I might have startled her and she could have run into the traffic out of fear."

Driver John Sutton said: "We were travelling back from Liverpool Airport to Rotherham where I live after our holiday. There was a sign that came up over the carriageway saying ‘pedestrian in road, go slowly.’ The motorway was very quiet, but there was no lighting on it.

"I was travelling in Lane one and then, I just saw a figure at the last second. I put my foot on the brake and tried to avoid the person, it was so quick."

PC John Edwards who helped investigate the tragedy said: "Karen was wearing a black top and blue jeans. In day light, it would generally take one to two seconds to stop; but at night with an unexpected hazard, it would take longer.

"Mr Sutton established that his speed was about 60mph and he tried to swerve around her. He has stated that he tried to take evasive action as the pedestrian appeared. But as she was not illuminated, there was insufficient time for him to avoid her."

Tests showed Miss Waller had 132 micrograms of alcohol in 100 milliltres of blood. The alcohol limit in blood for driving is 80mg.

Recording a conclusion of road traffic collision, coroner, Heath Westerman, said: "From the evidence I have heard Karen was a little drunk but not overly.

"When she left the address, Kirsty followed and tried to find out where she had gone and there was an unavoidable collision.

"This is a tragic event that, probably, in truth, will never be explained. But, on the evidence that I have, my conclusion will be one of road traffic collision."

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