• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Heartbreaking tribute from husband as Ling Felce fatal crash driver jailed

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 8, 2022

In court this morning, Dr Ling Felce’s widower James, 35, spoke of the devastating impact his late wife’s death has had on their family, friends and the community.

Hundreds gathered at the site of her death in March for a vigil to commemorate her life. A white-painted ‘ghost bike’ has been placed near the spot where she was struck by Robert Whiting’s tipper lorry.

READ MORE: Live updates from Oxford Crown Court as The Plain crash driver sentenced

We print the full statement below:

“It is very hard to put into words the impact of Ling’s death onto those closest to her, and in reality no statement will ever adequately convey the unbearable pain that so many have suffered, and continue to suffer, following her killing. Losing Ling has ripped the heart out of her family and destabilised several previously happy and prosperous lives. Collectively, we are devastated and will likely never truly be able to come to terms with what has happened.

“Ling has left behind her devoted parents and loving sister, who knew her as Suet. Again, it is not possible to meaningfully express the severe grief that comes with losing your daughter, and Ling’s parents are now forced to mourn their little girl, who was always such a source of pride and happiness. It runs in cruel contradiction to the natural order of things, and the scars of this pain will never go away for them. Ling was extremely close to her family and they shared so much of their lives right up until her end. Everything was planned around family, and so now everything they do comes with the crushing reminder of her absence. The constant emotional drain of this has had significant impacts on their daily lives and mental health. Ling’s sister has consequently been suffering from stress, trauma, and anxiety, which have negatively affected her daily life and performance at work. She has been forced to seek professional therapy in order to carry on; and her previously happy and spirited life is now blighted by the constant pain of her loss.

“Our children, who were only three and five years of age at the time of Ling’s death, have had to confront an incredibly adult concept at such a young age. The lives they now face are changed immeasurably. They no longer have Mummy, despite much pleading for her to return. Our son, the younger of the two, has proposed many ways that he might be able to make Mummy better, but even he is starting to realise that she is beyond our help. Our daughter tries to be strong, but she is not equipped to deal with the enormity of what has befallen her, as no six year old can be.

“The fractures that this loss brings to their lives may not make themselves apparent for years or even decades, and although I and the rest of their family will do everything we can to bring them stability and love, there is no hiding from the fact that their childhood will be harder and sadder than it should have been. The agonising reality is that, no matter what I or anyone else does, Ling’s children will never truly know her. They will know the memory of her, but this is not the same. Our son is too young to have ever had a real conversation with Ling, and our daughter did not have the chance to truly develop the formative mother-daughter relationship that shapes who you become. Every major milestone in their lives will now be tinged with sadness and loss, and how this will affect them as they develop into adulthood is impossible to say. I know that they will grow into good people, because they are Ling’s children, but they will not be the same people that they would have been with her still alive. Those people were killed with Ling; products of lives that have been stolen from them.

“Ling leaves behind many dear friends, who are also victims of this crime that has damaged so many lives. I know several have struggled with mental health issues in the face of her loss, and this tragedy is in no way limited to just our family. Her death also has untold ramifications to the scientific community and wider world. She devoted her life to the pursuit of knowledge and to research that would ultimately save lives. Her scientific career was becoming increasingly successful and her research increasingly consequential, so for her to be taken from us now as she was beginning to fully realise her potential is heartbreaking. It is impossible to say how her career would have played out, but I am certain that Ling’s will only be the first death of this tragedy, as the people she would have helped will ultimately fall victim to it as well.

Oxford Mail:

“For me, as Ling’s husband, her death has destabilised and upended every aspect of my life and left me with deep emotional wounds that will never heal. We were together from the age of 18, and have grown and matured in a deeply intertwined relationship that can never be replaced. I have never navigated adulthood without her – I have now lived more of my adult life widowed than I did as a single man before meeting Ling. I never once stopped to consider life without her, and all my hopes and aspirations were built on her being a constant of my existence. I like to consider myself a composed and level-headed person, who has a clear view on his life and where he is going. This life was not perfect, but it was immensely happy and I considered myself one of the luckiest and richest of men. Now I am drifting with an unknown destination, and I no longer recognise the life that I inhabit.

“The effect on my mental health has been severe. I have been compelled to seek counselling, and have dipped close or into depression periodically over the last five months. I honestly cannot say what the outcome would have been for me if I did not have children who, more than ever, need their father – it is possible that I would not be here to provide this statement. My overwhelming feeling, beyond the abject sadness of loss, is one of guilt. Guilt that it was Ling and not me; that I could not save her; that I get to live; that I get to see our children; that I cannot do enough to remember her adequately; and that I am on occasion happy, which feels indefensible under the circumstances.

“I am haunted by the needlessness of Ling’s death; how simple it would have been to avoid; and how I could have prevented it through the smallest of actions. I have returned to the site of her killing on many occasions, and I always ask her forgiveness that I was not there to save her. I am tormented by questions that I have no way to answer. Was she scared? Did she know she was being taken away from her children? Were her last thoughts of them and who they might grow up to be? People that she will never get to see. These and so many other doubts and uncertainties will follow me in everything I do for the rest of my life.

“I have found that previously comforting, homely activities are now empty and arduous. Without Ling there is no meaning to many of my previous plans; no joy in shared activities that are now just for me. The small pleasures and comforts that previously gave life colour now just amplify the void of connection, with the silence at the other side of the table deafening my evenings. I have lost my home, as it is now just a house; and I have lost my life, as I am now a stranger within it. Ling was in everything I did, and so now there is little point to anything I do.

“The complex trauma of all of this casts a shadow over my personal and professional life that I know will never go away. I have found the substantial difficulties in becoming a single parent to bereaved children very challenging, leaving me exhausted and mentally drained. This has impacted my work, which previously was a great source of energy and ambition for me, but I now find that I am not able to perform as I would like. Consequently, I have been forced to take reduced hours in my job, which ultimately reduces the sense of professional fulfilment and purpose that I previously enjoyed. Like Ling, I have always hoped my work would lead to the betterment of humanity through scientific progress, and now I feel that I am failing in this task, which is another source of guilt and dissatisfaction.

“Although material difficulties are the last thing I like to think about under the current circumstances, it is the reality that my reduced working hours come with a corresponding reduction in salary. This is at the same time as becoming a single-income family, and so has significant long-term financial implications. This adds to the general stress and worry that I have for my children’s future growing up without their mother and with a more disrupted home life.”

“Nonetheless, as bad as it is for those of us who remain, it is ultimately Ling who is the real victim of this crime, and she who has lost the most. The chance to see her children grow up; to realise her personal and professional ambitions; to enjoy the life that she had worked so hard to build for herself. Nothing will ever be enough to atone for what was taken from her. She was the best of us – caring, intelligent, empathetic, ambitious, joyful, sensitive, and, above all, good. It is an outrageous injustice that she can no longer be any of those things except in our memories, and nothing can ever change that.”

After hearing the victim personal statement, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said that there was ‘nothing I can say to bring your wife back or make her loss any better’.

“I’m limited in what I can do by way of sentencing this man. You will hear in a moment the maximum sentence for this offence is 14 years imprisonment. I am limited by Sentencing Council guidelines in this case and I have to give this man credit for his guilty plea.

“He’s not charged with murder or manslaughter. Nobody has ever said that he deliberately ran over your wife. I hope that’s some consolation. It’s not one of those cases where somebody has deliberately gone out to hurt somebody let alone kill them.

“My sentencing powers are limited. I don’t want you, her family, her friends going away from this court feeling aggrieved at the level of the sentence I will be imposing in due course.

“It reflects his driving, his very bad driving, and the consequences of it.”

Sentencing Whiting to eight years’ imprisonment, the judge said Mr Felce’s victim impact statement ‘can only have moved everybody that has heard it’.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward