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Ashford woman's careless driving in East Peckham killed friend Mildred Matete Hlabi

A 48-year-old woman's careless driving caused the death of a friend, a jury has decided.

Veronica Bepe had been on her way to a wake when she turned her Toyota Urban Cruiser in front of a car on Seven Mile Lane in East Peckham in December 2017.

Her passenger, nurse and mum of two Mildred Matete Hlabi, 43, of Beaver Road, Ashford, died from her injuries.

Veronica Bepe arriving at Maidstone Crown Court. Picture: Chris Davey
Veronica Bepe arriving at Maidstone Crown Court. Picture: Chris Davey

Mrs Hlabi had worked at the William Harvey Hospital and care home in the town and was also a deaconess at Fountain Church near Leacon Road.

Bepe, of St Anne's Road, Ashford had denied causing the death by driving carelessly but a jury at Maidstone Crown Court found her guilty.

Bepe told the court she was on her way to a wake in Tunbridge Wells on the evening of the accident.

She said she did not know the route nor the road she was on and was following directions from a phone.

She also denied driving fast along Martins Lane, saying: “It was a road I did not know so I wasn’t going fast. It was dark and the A road was wider and busier, with cars going back and forth.

"I was just waiting until the road was clear for me to get into. I looked right and left repeatedly – I kept checking.”

Oliver Dunkin, prosecuting, suggested that Bepe had not done that and she replied: “I definitely did.”

Mildred Matete Hlabi
Mildred Matete Hlabi

He added: “You misjudged how far away the blue Micra was. You felt it was safe to pull out in front of her and she thought you hadn’t seen her and she had to slow down and wanted to beep you when you pulled out.”

Bepe said: “I thought it was safe to pull out. I thought there was quite enough room for me to pull out.”

Mr Dunkin said: “You saw her late when you started to move and were surprised by her. You panicked and did not look the other way which was why the vehicle coming the other way smashed into you.”

Bepe denied this.

Mr Dunkin said: “Your emerging into the road caused the van driver to skid. At the end of that skid he hit you in the side, not behind. You had not completed your turn into the road and were halfway through.”

But Bepe said she was still looking left and right as she pulled out in a slow manoeuvre because she had plenty of time.

She will be sentenced next month after the preparation of a probation report and Judge Adele Williams gave Bepe an interim driving ban.

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