Grieving partner offers forgiveness at man's sentencing

By Don Farmer of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Donald Wills in Masterton District Court today. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age
Donald Wills in Masterton District Court today. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age

A judge has commended a grieving woman and the man responsible for her partner's death during an emotional court hearing following a fatal road accident.

Donald Stewart Wills, 66, of Morison's Bush, appeared for sentencing today before Judge Bill Hastings on a charge of careless driving causing the death of Ricki Cobb on the Waiohine Bridge near Carterton 18 months ago.

Mr Cobb died when a laden trailer towed by Wills' car hit the guardrail of the bridge and jack-knifed into the path of Mr Cobb's motorcycle, colliding with it and killing its rider instantly.

Prior to Wills being sentenced, the dead man's partner Hera Edwards read a statement to the court telling not only of the huge sorrow Mr Cobb's death had brought to her, and her whanau, but also of her willingness to forgive Wills.

Ms Edwards said the last 18 months had wrought a huge toll on her whanau but also on Wills, his wife and family.

She said nothing could ever be done to replace Mr Cobb or to make up for his absence in her life or the lives of their three girls, aged 9, 6 and 4, and nor would he ever be forgotten.

"This is not about forgetting, we will never forget, but it is about forgiving," Ms Edwards said.

She said the whanau realised that Wills had not set off on November 5, 2011 to harm anyone and that "many factors" had worked against both him and Mr Cobb on the fateful day that claimed Mr Cobb's life.

Addressing Wills as he stood in the dock Ms Edwards said: "I offer my forgiveness and the forgiveness of my family."

The sentencing came in the wake of a Restorative Justice conference and an offer by Wills that was described by Judge Hastings as being a "generous offer" driven by genuine remorse.

This included emotional harm payments of $5000 cash immediately available after sentencing, a further $10,000 cash payments a year later and another $10,000 to be paid into a trust fund for the three children, that payment to be made by July 31.

Wills also promised to supply frozen meat and produce to Ms Edwards and the family on an on-going basis.

Judge Hastings made a personal statement from the bench.

He said Ms Edwards had made a comment that herself and Wills "came from different worlds".

"But they are not so different you can't recognise the good in each other and I can see you are both good people.

"Many victim impact statements read to courts are fuelled by anger which prohibits healing, but Ms Edwards your statement rises above, from a basis of sorrow which embraces forgiveness.

"Both of you have shown a generosity of spirit so leave this courtroom and live your lives well," Judge Hastings said.

Solicitor Mike Antunovich appeared for Wills and said the Greytown man's letter of apology, explanation and reparation offer spoke for themselves.

Wills had made a "serious misjudgment based on overconfidence" that had unfortunately claimed the life of Mr Cobb.

Judge Hastings convicted Wills, ordering him to pay the total $25,000 reparation he had offered and disqualified him from driving for 6 months.

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