Councillor facing court over fatal crash

A SUFFOLK county councillor is facing court action after the car he was driving was involved in a fatal crash that claimed the life of a church minister.

A SUFFOLK county councillor is facing court action after the car he was driving was involved in a fatal crash that claimed the life of a church minister.

An inquest yesterday heard that Harold Mangar was driving a Mazda 626 when it collided with the Rev Stephanie Neal as she crossed the road.

The accident happened on the main A145 close to the village hall in Shadingfield, near Beccles, at about 7.15pm on March 22 this year.

Mrs Neal, a 71-year-old widow, suffered multiple injuries after being thrown across the bonnet of the car, the inquest was told.

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Last night, Mr Mangar, a Labour councillor representing the Bridge ward, confirmed he had received a court summons in relation to the crash but said the matter was in the hands of his lawyers.

Mr Mangar, of Colchester Road, Ipswich, said: “The car was driven by me and it's something that, as far as I am concerned, was an unfortunate accident.

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“The most important thing to remember is that a life has been lost and it's a tragedy to her family and friends and all who knew her. It is also something that I will never forget.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Dr Peter Dean said that Mrs Neal was dressed in dark clothing and that Mr Mangar would not have seen her until immediately before the accident.

He added police estimated that such was the layout of the road that Mrs Neal should have been able to see the Mazda some 20 seconds before she was hit.

However, he said: “It's possible she could have seen the vehicle, but misjudged its pace.”

There was no reference to the speed the Mazda was travelling at, but Dr Dean revealed Mr Mangar, who is a well-known race relations campaigner, would be the subject of future court proceedings.

He added: “It is clear that what took place was a very tragic accident.”

The inquest at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court heard that a rector who stopped at the scene of the fatal road accident discovered that the victim was a fellow minister.

The Rev Paul Nelson was driving to a church meeting at the village hall, which was also due to be attended by Mrs Neal.

In a statement read out at the hearing, Mr Nelson told how he had to stop at the scene of the crash and discovered the victim was Mrs Neal a short time later. He identified her body at the James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston.

Mr Nelson, rector of the Hundred River benefice, said he first met Mrs Neal, a former French teacher at the Sir John Leman High School, in Beccles, in 1998.

He added: “We were good friends every since. She had been a very active and popular minister with parishioners. She was a very positive person, gregarious and had a full life with plenty going on.”

Mrs Neal, who was widowed in the mid-1990s, lived at Chartres Piece, in the neighbouring parish of Willingham, but just a short distance away from Shadingfield village hall.

At her funeral service in April, she was remembered for her sense of humour and her abilities as a minister covering the villages of Shadingfield, Sotterley, Stoven, Brampton, Weston and Westhall.

She had always lived in north Suffolk and had also worked at Beccles Middle School, as well as Sir John Leman High.

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