Published: 00:01, 14 January 2019
| Updated: 07:23, 14 January 2019
The former partner of Russell Lane who tragically died after being trapped in a bin lorry has described him as an “amazing, sweet and intelligent man”.
Speaking for the first time, Nicola Gerrard, mum to his daughter Kellyanne, said Mr Lane “did not have a bad bone in his body – he was a beautiful soul”.
Just a few months before his untimely death in Rochester High Street he had graduated from a college in Southampton with a qualification in health and social care.
After a long illness which led to him being addicted to strong medication, he was starting a new chapter in his life.
Miss Gerrard, 45, said: “He was turning his life around, starting afresh and just wanted to help others.”
He was a loving dad to Kellyanne, 26, and had sent gifts to both her and his grandson Louie, four, ahead of his planned visit to Liverpool on December 27.
On arriving, Mr Lane was out of sorts, and not himself due to rapid medication reduction and left Liverpool for Rochester for reasons unknown.
Miss Gerrard said: “That was the last time we heard from him until we heard of his horrific accident and ensuing death in February.
“He had no way of contacting us following his accident, and no one thought to do it on his behalf.
“The details are still unknown. Everything is shrouded in mystery. He had plenty of money in his bank.
“He didn’t drink, there would be no reason for him to have to resort to sleeping in this bin, as was implied.
“We are hoping for answers at his inquest, and hopefully attain some degree of closure.
“In order to grieve naturally, we need answers, none of which have been forthcoming. All we have is the horrific minimal details.”
"The details are still unknown. Everything is shrouded in mystery. He had plenty of money in his bank..." Nicola Gerrard
Miss Gerarrd met Mr Lane when she was 18 after leaving her home in Liverpool to live in Bournemouth where she worked as a silver service waitress.
She described him as “the kind of person who leaves an imprint on your heart forever, and eternally my dearest life-long friend”.
Although they were not together at the time of his death in January last year, they spoke over the phone often and would chat for hours about everything.
She said their last conversation lasted about two hours and he was in good spirits, chatting to Kellyanne too.
They met through a mutual friend and struck up a relationship when she came out of hospital to recuperate from a neck injury.
Miss Gerrard said: “He was so loved by everyone. His tutors, who became his friends, were at the funeral and were devastated. He had a world-class mind and unique sense of humour.”
Mr Lane, 47, who was allegedly sleeping in a rubbish container, suffered crushing injuries to his legs after being scooped into the dustcart last January.
A helicopter and emergency services were called.
When the bin men collected the rubbish, despite saying they followed protocol to check it was empty, Mr Lane became trapped.
Doctors at Medway Maritime Hospital had wanted to amputate his leg, but he wanted a second opinion nearer to his home in Southampton docks. He was insistent on being nearer home.
He died six weeks later in Medway hospital as a result of a cardiac arrest in surgery.
Mr Lane was born in London and moved to Hampshire with his family as a child.
His funeral took place in the New Forest in June.
Miss Gerarrd said: “It was a very beautiful, befitting service. He is now laid to rest alongside his beloved grandmother whom had not long passed herself.
"This has left a massive hole in our lives..." Nicola Gerrard
“This brings us so much comfort as they were so very close in life.
“His service was our first chance to start the grieving process, albeit many months after his death.
“We feel a year on from this horrific accident the publicity around it was ill-informed.
“No one should be defined or objectified by their housing status or lack thereof.
“However, in this instance he was not a homeless man, he was a very much loved father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and dear dear friend who will be so very missed.
“This has left a massive hole in our lives. We hope the inquest will bring us some form of solace and closure.”