A fatal crash caused by a "completely worthwhile member" of Whangārei's community has seen the man sent to prison after a guilty plea to a police case that included evidence of sleeping medication in his blood.
Wayne John Purdon, 57, of Whangārei's Tikipunga, was sentenced to two years and four months' prison for dangerous driving causing death, and a year for dangerous driving causing injury at a July 14, 2019, crash on State Highway 1 north of Ruakaka.
Community nurse Jodee-Anne Genevieve Redmond, 55, was killed after Purdon's ute hit her car head-on, bringing to an end his 12km-long streak of swerving and weaving across his and the oncoming lane.
She died at the scene of the accident. Blood samples taken from Purdon revealed he had the sleeping medication zopiclone in his system, although he says he has no idea how it got there.
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The crash also seriously injured David Dell, who was in the car behind Redmond, and left Purdon with injuries that were obvious as he limped across the courtroom at Whangārei District Court to take his place in the dock.
Judge Duncan Harvey told the packed court it was an "enormously difficult" sentencing. He had been told of Purdon's family, life, and his clean record, and been given 62 references as to his good character.
It was clear, said Harvey, that Purdon was "a completely worthwhile member of the community".
"You are respected, liked and a very useful member of the community. Sadly, every now and again, good people do bad things.
"This type of driving is unacceptable."
Harvey said Purdon had expressed uncertainty as to why his blood showed the sleeping medication but the medical tests were clear it was there.
Also, at the time, "you would have known" how erratic and dangerous his driving was. "The outcome has been completely and utterly devastating."
Redmond's husband Paul Wager said outside court he had hoped to see Purdon banned from driving for life although he realised the law did not allow this.
Harvey disqualified Purdon from driving for three years.
"It's never going to be a good outcome for anyone. The best outcome would have been to get this gentleman off the road for the rest of his life. That was never going to be on the cards."
He said there remained a question mark over the sleeping medication. "The evidence is he had it in his system. That's all we know."
Wager said he recognised there was an impact on both families. "We just want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone ever again."
Inside the court, Wager, with Redmond's sons Alex and Sam in support, faced Purdon. From his wheelchair, Wager spoke of how hard it had been to find his soulmate. "It's rare, almost impossible, to find someone who can look past a disability. Now you have taken her away.
"She was my protector but I was also hers and I feel guilty I couldn't protect her from you."
There were nine years of marriage before Redmond's death and he become increasingly aware in that time of the enormous contribution she made through her nursing and acts of kindness in the community.
"I can definitely say she is the most selfless person I ever met."
The couple had discussed her wishes in the event of her death and she had asked for no funeral and no burial. "She just didn't want anyone to make a fuss at all. It's hard to describe how emotionally hard it was to grant that wish."
While not mentioned in court, Massey University now has an annual award to a first year student at the College of Health's School of Nursing who shows "generosity of spirit, empathy to patients, honesty and a positive influence over other students".
Rene Redmond, Redmond's older brother, spoke flanked by siblings who reached for each other to lend support during his statement to the court.
"Unfathomable sadness is what I feel on a daily basis," he said. Redmond had been "ripped mercilessly out of my life" and left him "lost and alone".
"I so admired her bravery to confront rather than turn away." He said the victim impact statement was his chance to speak out for her.
He said Purdon had made a "sustained decision to continue driving while you were completely incapable of doing so". "Why the hell didn't you pull over?"
Throughout the sentencing, Purdon kept his head bowed. At one stage, a court guard passed a clump of tissues to him.
At the back of the court, Purdon's wife- also a nurse - cradled her face in her hand throughout the proceeding. At the point Harvey passed sentence and she learned Purdon was going to prison, she slumped and sobbed.
Judge Harvey said Purdon had been riding motocross bikes at Ruakaka for the day. He left for home, towing a motorcycle trailer out of Ruakaka and onto State Highway 1. He veered across the centre line after 12km of erratic driving and hit Redmond's car head-on.