Norfolk family pay tribute to their ‘community stalwart’ wife and mother

The family of a community stalwart, who died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as she walked to a Christmas Eve church service, paid tribute to her following an inquest into her death.

Katherine Aldridge, 67, who lived with her husband Michael, 68, on Mill Lane, Pulham St Mary, was struck by a car on Christmas Eve 2009 and died the following day.

Mr Aldridge, who attended yesterday's inquest in Norwich, said: 'She was my soulmate. We were married for nearly 42 years and we did everything together. We were about to start our retirement life.'

Daughters Barbara Aldridge, 36, from Mill Lane, Pulham St Mary, and Louise Ramsay, 40, from Great Blakenham, Suffolk, also attended the inquest.

Mrs Ramsay added: 'She was an extremely special person, not only to her family but her whole community. The emphasis of her being was to be part of her community. The church was the most important thing to her out of all of her organisations she was part of. She had a very strong faith.'

The inquest, held at The Assembly House, heard that the incident happened as Mrs Aldridge made her way to a service at the parish church at 5.55pm.

Julian Smith was in his red Nissan people carrier on the B1134 Norwich Road when he reversed into North Green Road and hit Mrs Aldridge.

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Following an appeal for information into the tragedy, Mr Smith handed himself into a local police station a few days later.

Mr Smith, previously pleaded guilty to causing the death by careless driving and at his sentencing hearing in October, the 38-year-old was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was banned from driving for a year. He was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

During the court hearing and at yesterday's inquest, Mr Smith, of Goose Green, Winfarthing, claimed he did not know he had hit Mrs Aldridge.

Coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict that Mrs Aldridge died as a result of a road traffic collision.

He added: 'She was devoted to her family, church and community. She will be remembered with much respect.'

Following the verdict, Miss Aldridge added: 'Now that inquest and legal side of things have finished, we can start grieving for her.'

Last year, following the tragedy, the Rev Norman Steer, of Pulham St Mary the Virgin Church, spoke of villagers' shock.

'She was never at the forefront, but was always working hard for people and the church. She was a very generous lady and she always had a smile for anyone. Everyone would talk about her warmth and kindness,' he said at the time.