The sister of a mum-of-two killed by a dangerous driver has vowed to care for her dependant niece and nephew like they are her own children.
Susan Shaw, of High Street, Rishton, cared full time for daughter Leanne, 27, and son Adam, 25.
Damian Raeburn, from Accrington, was this week told he is facing a long spell behind bars after admitting causing Susan’s death by dangerous driving just yards from her home on Boxing Day.
Debbie Hudson, of Shakespeare Avenue, Great Harwood, is now carer for the children, who both have severe learning difficulties.
Debbie, who like Susan, attended Norden High school, has two grown up children and suffers from fibromyalgia, said: “My sister was my best friend and soulmate.
“She always said if anything happens to her ‘would you look after the kids?’ We’ll be working as a family, it won’t just be me. We’ll do our best to make life easier for them and spoil them.
“I love them like my own kids and Susan loved my kids as much.”
Leanne developed a brain infection when she was five, has got a severe form of epilepsy and requires one-to-one care.
Adam, who sustained a frontal lobe defect from birth, has severe epilepsy, is unable to speak and needs help eating and washing. Debbie will be taking on much of the daytime caring, while her mum Annette, 68, will be helping at night.
As well as Annette’s husband, semi-retired David Shaw, and Debbie’s husband John Hudson, 65, the family are hoping to get help from social services but are not sure yet if they will qualify for carer’s allowance on top of Debbie’s Employment Support Allowance.
Annette, of Edward Street, Rishton, said: “Susan was a much loved and cherished family member, and a well-loved member of the community. She was always generous with her time, with both friends and strangers alike. She was devoted to her children.
“She wasn’t well, but gave 100 per cent every day. It’s devastating.
“Adam has kept looking at a photograph of his mum and looking at the door. He has a mental age of three and the only words he learned are mummy, nanna and grandma.
“Leanne is having fits every day because of this.
“The specialist said it’s due to the stress. She keeps crying at night time and saying ‘I want my mummy’. Leanne knows that a man hit her. She wanted to know why and I said he was driving like he shouldn’t have done.”
Annette said an apology letter Raeburn had written to the family would remain unopened as he had shown no remorse in his actions. She said: “I’m glad he pleaded guilty obviously, but what he did was awful. We haven’t looked at his letter saying sorry. My daughter said I’m not looking at it.”
She recalled the dreadful moment she went outside into the commotion following the collision, after Susan did not return from the shop.
She said: “I went down to the scene and I saw them trying to resuscitate someone. I said to the policeman ‘my daughter is missing’ and I said ‘I know it’s her’. I told him what she was wearing and he said ‘it is your daughter and it’s very serious’. He then came back and said ‘I’m sorry, she has gone’.
“Another officer shouted at me and said who are you?’. I said ‘I’m Susan’s mum’. I was sobbing my heart out, he put his arm around me. It was awful, I’ll never forget it.”
Susan’s dad David, 75, said Debbie and Susan were very close, like the rest of the family.
He added: “Leanne and Adam are making everyone get from one day to the next. If we had known something was going to happen to her it wouldn’t be so hard. I cannot see me getting over it.”
Family’s pride at response of Rishton community
Susan’s family have said they are “proud” of the overwhelming response of the Rishton community following her death.
Her mum Annette also thanked police investigating the collision and liaising with the family as they tried to cope with shock and grief.
She spoke of the gut wrenching moment she realised something was badly wrong when Susan, who had popped to the shop on Boxing Day evening, did not come home. Just minutes later a police officer was breaking the news to her that her daughter had suffered catastrophic injuries and died.
She said: “She had been to the Coop to get some shopping for the children. She used to go about 6.30 but instead she went at 5.30. The Coop was shutting early because of Boxing Day. When you cross over the crossing it’s two doors away. Ten seconds later and she would have been home, she would have been here.”
The family said nearly 500 people attended Susan’s funeral last week, with the family given a police escort to the church and people lining the route as shops shut for a few hours as a mark of respect. A large number of local firms made a whole range of contributions.
Susan, who was a member of the Switch on Rishton committee, would sell raffle tickets and help with the tombola as part of a year-round fundraising effort for the village’s Christmas festivities. In recognition of this the group has organised collection buckets and fundraising nights for the family and there are also plans for a 12ft tree on High Street, with a dedication plaque to her.
Annette added: “She would be really pleased with that and being remembered in that way. I feel humbled by it. I wouldn’t know how to start thanking them.”
Susan’s dad David said they are often stopped by people in the street offering support, adding: “I went down to the chip shop and a woman said ‘Is that your daughter who got knocked down?’ She just gave me £30 and a hug.”
Her sister Debbie Hudson said: “The house looks like a florist with all the flowers and cards we have got. It’s been crazy, we’re so proud of Rishton, we really are. It was a beautiful funeral and with the police escort they were so professional.
“Most people have been waiving charges and the funeral director has been amazing. It’s simple things that have made life that little bit easier.”