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Times foreign correspondent, 34, was run over and killed by drunk driver

A foreign correspondent at The Times was run over and killed by a drunk motorcyclist travelling up to three times the speed limit, a court heard today.  

Melissa van der Klugt, 34 – who covered south Asia and Africa – was tragically killed in the ‘horrific’ crash in London on August 30, 2019, the hearing was told.

It was later revealed that motorcyclist Christopher Perry, 40, who also died, was drunk and travelling between 74 and 90mph over Battersea Bridge, a 30mph zone.

Ms van der Klugt’s parents, who are both solicitors, will argue for an unlawful killing verdict at her inquest. 

Their wishes were expressed to the Coroner via their lawyer during a pre-inquest review hearing at Westminster Coroner’s Court.

Toxicology reports showed Perry had 108mg of ethanol in his blood. The legal driving limit is 80mg, the hearing was told.

Melissa van der Klugt, 34 (pictured) - who covered south Asia and Africa - was tragically killed in the fatal collision in London on August 30, 2019, the hearing was told

Melissa van der Klugt, 34 (pictured) - who covered south Asia and Africa - was tragically killed in the fatal collision in London on August 30, 2019, the hearing was told

Melissa van der Klugt, 34 (pictured) – who covered south Asia and Africa – was tragically killed in the fatal collision in London on August 30, 2019, the hearing was told

Ms van der Klugt died at the scene in Battersea, south London. The driver died at St George’s Hospital in Tooting the following day.

The driver would likely have faced criminal proceedings for causing death by dangerous driving if he had survived, the court heard. 

Amy Clarke, counsel for the family, said: ‘It will be no surprise that Melissa’s family feel very strongly that they want to make representations about unlawful killing.’ 

Assistant Coroner Bernard Richmond QC asked Ms Clark: ‘You are at this stage intending, if the evidence supports the possibility, to seek to persuade me to find a verdict of unlawful killing?

‘At the moment the potentials are accident, misadventure, a narrative, and unlawful killing, those are the possibilities aren’t they?’

‘Yes,’ replied Ms Clarke.

A passing Ocado van probably had dashcam footage of the accident but the video was not saved for ‘various technical reasons,’ the court heard.

‘I’m going to look at the effect the condition of the person driving was in before, anything that happened in the journey and what happened immediately after,’ concluded Mr Richmond.

Ms van der Klugt – also known as Missy – had worked for The Times, The Sunday Times and the BBC before the tragic accident.

Described in her obituary as tall and elegant, she wrote literary, travel, features and foreign pieces for the newspapers. She was also heard on the radio and in podcasts.

Her exciting and prosperous career led her on adventures across the world including to the Rohingya camps of Delhi, the cheesemakers of Kenya and the Himalayan foothills.

Ms van der Klugt's (pictured) parents, who are both solicitors, will argue for an unlawful killing verdict at her inquest

Ms van der Klugt's (pictured) parents, who are both solicitors, will argue for an unlawful killing verdict at her inquest

Ms van der Klugt’s (pictured) parents, who are both solicitors, will argue for an unlawful killing verdict at her inquest

Her first BBC dispatch saw her record herself speaking under a duvet in Delhi because the recording studio was closed overnight, her obituary in The Times said. 

PC Jeremy Archer, who investigated the collision scene, told the hearing that the range of speed was calculated at between 74 and 90mph in a 30mph zone.

When asked by the Coroner, DC Helen Craine said a speed of 70mph would have ‘undoubtedly’ got the matter to the police for death by dangerous driving. 

Mr Richmond said: ‘It’s clear on any reading that the speed at which the driver was going was such that even if there had been more notice, he probably would not have had a chance of stopping.

‘Realistically the question is even at the minimum speed, was that an acceptable speed to be driving?’

A separate inquest will be held for the driver, who also died in the crash.

Ms van der Klugt’s family are expected to question whether the ethanol reading of the driver was affected by the blood transfusion he received at the scene and whether it could have diluted the reading.

Ms Clarke said: ‘Mr Perry was provided with a blood transfusion on scene.

‘We also know from the collision report that Mr Perry’s ethanol level in his blood we will be submitting was relevant in the assessment of how the collision occurred.

‘It was 108mg and the legal driving limit is 80mg.’

It was later revealed that motorcyclist Christopher Perry, 40, who also died, was drunk and travelling between 74 and 90mph over Battersea Bridge (pictured), a 30mph zone

It was later revealed that motorcyclist Christopher Perry, 40, who also died, was drunk and travelling between 74 and 90mph over Battersea Bridge (pictured), a 30mph zone

It was later revealed that motorcyclist Christopher Perry, 40, who also died, was drunk and travelling between 74 and 90mph over Battersea Bridge (pictured), a 30mph zone 

Addressing Melissa’s parents, Diana and Kees and her brother Edmund – who appeared with Ms Clarke via video link – the Assistant Coroner said: ‘Who knows what may come out, one thing that is clear is that nobody is on trial.

‘We never name the driver in terms of the conclusion we reach, that’s not the purpose.

‘Although you’re here the one person that is not here is Melissa, my job is to be her advocate and to answer the questions that she would want asked.

‘I hope that I have done as much as I can to help you.

‘Of course the family is the most important thing. One of the things I think is really important is the way the court marks that the way somebody dies does not mark their lives.’   

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