THE widow of a Huddersfield man killed during a motorbike race at Brands Hatch has spoken of the family’s frustration after waiting over three years for answers about his death.
Jane Mitchell has still not been given a date for the inquest of her husband Darren, 31, who died while competing in the National Super Stock Series element of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch in Kent in June 2004.
Darren’s bike hit another motorcycle, which had collided with a crash barrier, and he was thrown off into a bridge near the track.
Mrs Mitchell says the delays are putting a huge strain on her, Mr Mitchell’s parents Kath and Robert, who live in Elland, and his sisters Josephine and Stephanie.
“It’s just crazy. We have done our best to move on but it’s obviously very difficult having to deal with ongoing delays and challenges. The family want a verdict. I have not even been able to register his death yet.”
Mr Mitchell, who ran a fabrication business in Newsome, had ridden motorbikes as a hobby since he was six.
He lived in Primrose Hill with his wife, who he met in 1993 on a business studies course at Huddersfield University, and their son Max, who is now three.
Last summer, Jane moved with Max to Manchester, where she has worked for 10 years, to escape painful memories.
“Max is around my family and still spends a lot of time with Darren’s family, which is important. He is an amazing boy who keeps a smile on all of our faces.”
Mr Mitchell’s inquest was originally scheduled for November 2004, but the coroner requested further police investigations, which took two years to complete.
The inquest finally opened at Gravesend County Court in November 2006, before North West Kent Coroner Roger Hatch.
He agreed to hear the case without a jury but it was adjourned and, in May 2007, race organisers mounted a legal challenge because they wanted a jury at the inquest.
Those behind the legal challenge were Motor Cycle Circuit Racing Control Board Ltd – the sport’s regulatory body – Motor Sport Vision, who run Brands Hatch circuit, and Stuart Higgs, who was the race director at the event.
On September 8, Mr Justice Silber at London’s High Court backed their demands and said a jury must sit at the inquest.
No new date has been set for the hearing, which was due to take place today, leaving Mrs Mitchell in limbo.
She was not even informed of the outcome of the judicial review.
I learnt about the outcome by reading it in the Examiner.
The inquest delays could also affect a civil action Mrs Mitchell is mounting over her husband’s death. In June, she lodged a claim against the MCCRCB over safety procedures and against Motorsport Vision over the bridge.
One of the pivotal issues is whether wet weather on the day of the race should have led to its cancellation.
Claimants have three years to lodge a case after an incident, then four months after that date to serve notice on the defendants.
But the inquest is now likely to be scheduled after this four month deadline has passed.
Mrs Mitchell needs an inquest verdict before an insurance company will back solicitors to take on her case on a no win no fee basis.
She said: “To me it doesn’t seem right that the actions of a corporation can push things so far it delays proceedings and potentially results in civil action being dropped.”
Mrs Mitchell said securing a no win no fee service was vital if she was going to pursue civil action, as she is running out of funds.
“I am funding the solicitor out of my own pocket and from Darren’s memorial fund. This fund was set up with the intention of securing Max’s future, not to pay to fight for a fair hearing.”