Parents' tribute to teacher killed by drink-driver

HER radiant, beaming smile will be one of thousands of memories treasured by the family and friends of Sarah Lee, a talented teacher who tragically lost her life at the hands of a drink-driver in a car crash in December.

Lizzie Parry

HER radiant, beaming smile will be one of thousands of memories treasured by the family and friends of Sarah Lee, a talented teacher who tragically lost her life at the hands of a drink-driver in a car crash in December.

Speaking at the conclusion of the inquest into her death yesterday the 24-year-old's family and partner paid glowing tribute to her, remembering their “creative, intelligent, vivacious and caring,” Sarah.

Miss Lee, who had just started her first teaching job at the Royal Hospital School, was on her way home to Colchester after setting up an art exhibtion at the school on December 5 with her partner Richard Day when the accident happened in the village of Stutton, near Brantham.

Travelling at around 80mph the Audi driven by Matthew Anderson, 24 of Holbrook, who was nearly two-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit, veered onto the wrong side of the road hitting Miss Lee's Ford Focus, the inquest heard.

David Lee and his wife Barbara of Bedfield, near Framlingham said the “profound” affect of their daughter's death had been “hard to bear.”

Most Read

Mr Lee said: “The scale of our loss is matched only by the deep love and admiration we felt for her. She lived her life with a huge radiant smile and was an inspiration to her family, friends and the students she taught.

“Sarah's artistic and creative talents were remarkable, whether she was using words, music or pictures. She was unswerving in her commitment to environmental and humanitarian causes; she cared about people and issues as much as anyone I have ever known.

“That such a person should have been taken from us by a drunken driver travelling at excessive speed is unbearable.”

Her younger sister Maddy, 22, described her as “simply my best friend.” She said: “She made life stronger, fuller and more colourful. I am truly honoured to be her sister, to have shared experiences and loved her.”

Her partner of four years Mr Day, who was in the car at the time of the accident, recalled the traumatic impact on his life, watching his “beloved Sarah” trapped and dying next to him. The couple were planning to marry next year.

“I am haunted by what I have seen, the image of Anderson's face prior to the impact, of the noise of the crash, and of the realisation that my beloved Sarah had died.

“I loved her more than anything in the world and the most wonderful thing was that she felt exactly the same way and I knew it. She will never be replaced but will live on through all of our memories and our actions.”

Her parents said from the word go, almost before she could hold a pencil Sarah showed the artistic and creative flair that was to become her passion and inspire all those who knew her. A talented musician as well as artist, playing piano, clarinet and guitar, she taught Art, Art History, Piano and Yoga at RHS.

And her uncle Tim Hall recalled a captivating young woman who made everyone feel special. He said: “Sarah had the quality of making you feel that seeing you was the best thing that had happened to her that day that there was nowhere else she would rather be. That you could be part of these boundless possibilities.”

At a memorial service and celebration of her life on December 18, more than 300 people packed Framlingham church with dozens stranded on route, in the freezing, snowy weather.

Mrs Lee said: “The number of people who made the effort to come, just shows how many lives she touched. It was comforting and very moving, a great support valued immensely. It was good to see what she meant to everyone. It was an achievement of her exceptional qualities.

“We have been extremely grateful for all the amazing support from family and friends and the police officers and victim support teams who have dealt with the case.

“She honestly could achieve anything presented to her, it was quite remarkable. She had a belief in herself and her abilities.”

Matthew Anderson's parents, Christine and John, along with his 26-year-old brother, Nick, have also been left distraught by the double tragedy.

They stressed that as far as they were concerned Matthew had previously always been careful not to drink and drive.

Mrs Anderson, 59, said: “We are not making excuses for Matthew's behaviour. For some unknown reason Matthew drove while under the influence of alcohol. It was totally out of character and had, unfortunately, tragic consequences because an innocent person paid the price as well.

“We are heartbroken and devastated. We feel so much for the poor young girl and her family.

“Matthew would never, ever drink and drive. However, he sometimes drank too much like most young men.”

The Andersons said if Matthew was drinking, he would leave his car somewhere overnight and his father would give him a lift the following morning to pick it up.

Mrs Anderson said: “Matthew was a very thoughtful, considerate, loving and caring son. He was honest and hardworking and would do anything for anybody. I could give many examples of the thoughtful things he did. That was his character.”