Other High Profile Cases and Persons of Interest > Lillian's Law - Lillian Groves (14) mown down by a Drug Driver.

Introduction - Lillian Groves was mown down by a drug driver outside her home

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I have been asked to highlight this case by the Groves family and am very pleased to be able to assist in any way possible.  Below, Lillian's parents describe the tragedy in almost unbearable detail...

Lillian Groves (14)

Each morning, Natasha Groves drives to the cemetery where her daughter, Lillian, is buried, and sits at her graveside for half an hour before going back home to face the day.

Twenty months have passed since 14-year-old Lillian died, but her family’s pain has not eased.

Still, going to her daughter’s grave each day gives Natasha some small comfort.

Lillian was killed outside her home in New Addington, Surrey, by a speeding motorist, John Page, who’d been smoking cannabis.

But he was never charged with any drug offence, and last July he was sentenced to just eight months in prison after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Astonishingly, he was released just eight weeks later.

Forty-two-year-old Natasha and her husband, Gary, who is also 42, were stunned. How could he have got off so lightly?

The answer, tragically, is easily. The UK’s drug-driving laws are so convoluted and gap-ridden that it can be difficult to prosecute successfully. 

So Natasha and Gary vowed to change the legal system that had allowed this man to escape a fitting punishment.

Their campaign for Lillian’s Law quickly gathered support, with tens of thousands of people signing a petition.

Then, last November, came the call they’d dreamed of but never thought would happen: they were being summoned to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister.

David Cameron was so touched by the family’s plight that he made an overhaul of Britain’s drug-driving laws a priority. The Government is now creating a new drug-driving offence.

‘David Cameron was very sympathetic, very genuine,’ says Natasha, who works as a school cleaner.

‘He was disgusted by Page’s sentence.

‘As we left, he shook my hand and I said: “You won’t let us down, will you?” — and he replied: “I won’t let you down.” And he hasn’t, has he?’

The accident happened on June 26, 2010, outside the house where Lillian lived with her parents and 11-year-old brother, Oliver.

‘Lillian was always smiling, always happy,’ recalls Natasha. ‘She was a real Daddy’s girl and could wrap Gary round her little finger.

‘She didn’t demand attention, though; she had a charm that worked in her favour, and the most gorgeous smile. She loved drama and the performing arts, although I think her shyness held her back.’

After dinner on that warm, summer night, she went out the front to play with her brother as her parents sat in the back garden.

What happens next remains in sharp focus.

‘They took a football with them,’ says Natasha, ‘and they were passing the ball to one another.’

'I've never seen a child look so ill. Her (Lillian) poor face was lacerated and swollen. She was grey, and her stomach was huge because of all the blood in there. It was awful,' said Natasha (pictured with husband Gary)

Unknown to them, John Page, a 36-year-old landscape gardener who lived down the road, had decided to go for a ‘spin’ in a friend’s Vauxhall Astra to show off to his niece and another passenger.

He sped up Headley Drive, a residential street, turned a corner and hit Lillian, who had gone into the road to retrieve the ball.

‘We heard two almighty thuds,’ recalls Natasha. ‘Gary and I looked at each other: we knew instantly that something wasn’t right.

‘We ran outside and Olly was in the front garden, red-faced, screaming: “Lil’s been hit, Lil’s been hit!”

'There was a car across the road parked at an obscure angle. We ran to it and there was Lil, lying in front of it. There was no one in the car.

‘Lil was unconscious, struggling to breathe. A neighbour tried to resuscitate her, but she did not respond.

‘Blood started trickling out of her ear, then it was pumping out of her ear and half her face was covered in blood. The ambulance took nine minutes to arrive, which seemed like for ever.

‘Gary was holding her, saying: “Stay with us, Lil, you’re going to be all right.” I was standing over her, quite calm. You know it’s your child there, but it’s as if it’s not happening to you.

'They got Lil into the ambulance, then took her out again as they said she wasn’t stable enough to travel. They removed all her clothes, which horrified me, because Lil was prudish and would have hated that.

‘They worked on her on the road, anaesthetised her. Finally, they said she could go to hospital.’

With her stricken parents travelling behind in a police car, Lillian arrived at King’s College Hospital in South London at 9pm.

‘There was a great big team around her,’ says Natasha, ‘and one of the doctors said to us: “You’ve got a very sick little girl there. We don’t know if she’s going to make it.”

‘We were taken to a relatives’ room. A nurse came in and said Lillian was bleeding internally, but she was too unstable to take to theatre. Instead, they were going to operate where she was.

‘Then we were told they’d located the bleed — it was coming from the aorta in her heart, the worst possible place. The nurse said it might be time to get the rest of the family to the hospital.’

Natasha’s children from a previous marriage, Rhiannon, 21, and Nicholas, 19, soon arrived with Oliver.

‘At about 10pm, Lil was taken to theatre, and shortly before midnight we saw her being wheeled past us on her way to the paediatric intensive care ward. When we saw her, we were hopeful that she was going to be all right.

‘Then, at 12.10am, the consultant came in and took us into a side room. We thought he was going to say: “She’s bad, the next 48 hours are going to be critical”.

‘Instead, he said they’d stopped the bleed but a CT scan had showed global brain damage that was, in his words — and they haunt me still — “incompatible to life”. For now, she was being kept alive with drugs.

‘We couldn’t take it in. Gary kept saying: “Are you going to keep her on a ventilator?” The consultant was so uncomfortable about having to tell us. It was me who eventually screamed: “She hasn’t made it, Gary, she hasn’t made it!”’

The consultant told them that they were keeping Lillian alive simply so that her family could say goodbye.

Natasha recalls: ‘I’ve never seen a child look so ill. Her poor face was lacerated and swollen. She was grey, and her stomach was huge because of all the blood in there. It was awful.

‘Leaving her was the worst thing. I’d always taken Lil everywhere — to the doctor and the dentist. But she went down to the mortuary all on her own.

'Now I wish I’d asked to go with her, but at the time I didn’t realise I might be able to.’

In a cruel twist of fate, Lillian died in the early hours of her mother’s birthday.

‘When we got home, I saw the card she’d bought me,’ says Natasha. ‘I couldn’t bear to open it at the time, but I did later. She’d written: “Dear Mum, have a great day.”’

Lillian was brought to a local chapel of rest and her parents went to see her each day.

‘Every day she looked a bit better, as though she were just asleep. Gary and I would be crying over the coffin saying: “Come on, Lil, open your eyes, the joke’s not funny any more.”’

The funeral at St Edward King and Confessor Church in New Addington was attended by family and Lillian’s friends from Addington High School.

‘I’d wanted to carry Lil’s coffin,’ says Natasha. ‘I said to Gary: “I carried her into the world — now I want to carry her out.” But we agreed I should be with the other children, and my dad helped carry the coffin.’

After the funeral, the couple met with police a number of times.

‘We learned that Page had been picked up with his two passengers at a nearby bus stop several minutes after the accident.

‘I understand that he could not be prosecuted for leaving the scene because he was picked up in the vicinity. But as far as we’re concerned, he legged it. How could those three people have just left Lil lying there?’

There were more shocking details. Page was driving at 43mph in a 30mph zone. A half-smoked cannabis joint had been found on the dashboard of the car. And he was not tested for drugs until nine hours after the accident.

‘I don’t know why it took so long — I suppose they decided to question him first — but that time lapse was crucial,’ says Natasha.

While cannabis was eventually found in his system, there was not enough to charge him with causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs, which carries a maximum 14-year sentence.
'She loved drama and the performing arts, although I think her shyness held her back,' said Natasha

'She loved drama and the performing arts, although I think her shyness held her back,' said Natasha

If Page had been tested at the roadside, enough cannabis may have been found to charge him with the more serious offence. But, as the law stands, drug-testing equipment is used only in police stations, rather than at the roadside.

Furthermore, police must prove a driver’s actions have been impaired by drug use before they can bring charges.


The statistics tell their own story. In 2008, 71,449 people were convicted of drink-driving in England and Wales, compared with 1,644 people convicted of drug-driving. Yet one in ten people aged between 18 and 29 has admitted to driving after taking illegal drugs.

Last July, Lillian’s parents came face to face with Page at his trial at Croydon Crown Court.

‘He sat in the dock staring at us,’ says Natasha. ‘He has shown no remorse all the way through. He is contemptible.’

Page, who also admitted driving a car not registered to him without insurance, was banned from driving for two years and jailed for eight months. The family were told he would serve four months.

They have no idea why Page walked free in just half that time. Shocked, they sat down together and discussed what to do next.

In the coming days, Lillian’s Law was born. They wanted drug analysers introduced for roadside testing, driving while under the influence of illegal drugs to be made a criminal offence, random spot checks and tougher sentencing.

They set up a petition online and the entire family spent nights and weekends trawling the streets and shopping centres trying to get the 100,000 signatures needed for it to be debated in Parliament.

Their local paper, the Croydon Advertiser, backed the campaign, as did their Conservative MP, Gavin Barwell, who promised to talk to the Prime Minister.

But still it came as a surprise when they were invited to meet the Prime Minister at Downing Street on November 29.

‘It was a very pleasant experience,’ says Natasha. ‘Gary and I were a little apprehensive, but David Cameron was very nice and down-to-earth.

'He showed us around and his assistant brought us tea. He said that the impairment test was all wrong, and that he would go back and re-examine the law.’

He kept his word: the Government is now looking at the options. It is planning to introduce roadside ‘drugalysers’, and Mr Cameron told the couple he was open to the ‘zero tolerance’ proposed by Lillian’s Law.

The campaign is a reason for the Groves family to get up in the morning, but they remain bereft.

‘At the beginning, everyone was there for each other, but now we don’t let each other see what emotions we’re feeling,’ says Natasha.

‘It’s put a big distance between Gary and me — we can’t share our grief. We used to have a very happy marriage, but now we’re not so close. We suffer alone. Our grief is too great for us to have a happy home life now.

‘Olly never speaks about what he saw that day. Sometimes he says he’s worried that Lil won’t recognise him when he gets to heaven because he’ll be old.

‘People say: “I know what you’re going through” — but they don’t. To be honest, if it wasn’t for my other children, I wouldn’t be here now.

‘I used to be scared of dying — but now I’m not because I hope I’ll see my Lil again. You love all your children the same, but it’s the one that you’ve lost that you long for.

‘People have said we’d be better off moving, starting afresh, but I can’t do that yet because all my memories of Lil are here.

‘But at least we are trying to do something positive. It’s too late for Lillian, but if the new law saves lives and brings people like Page to justice, that will be her legacy.’

It is a change that cannot come too soon.


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