The wife of a great-grandfather has spoken of her shock at being told her husband had been run over by a police van only hours after they had said goodbye when she gave him money for an ice cream, an inquest heard.
Donald Bennett, 83, had gone to watch the bowls and had stopped to buy himself an ice cream moments before an unattended police van rolled down a slope and ran into him as he walked through his nearby park in Pudsey, Leeds, West Yorks.
Mr Bennett was treated by paramedics at the scene but sadly pronounced dead shortly after.
It was reported at the time that two officers got out of the van to deal with a disturbance in the park before the vehicle rolled into the pensioner.
In a statement read out at Wakefield Coroners Court, West Yorks., today (Tues), by Assistant Coroner John Hobson, Mr Bennett’s wife Marjorie Bennett, 85, spoke of her husband as a “joker” and the “life and soul of the party”.
The statement said: “I had a great life with Donald and we had a long and happy marriage.
“Money was tight but he always provided.
“As a family we watched him recover from prostate cancer that he was diagnosed with only a few months earlier so to lose him so suddenly after that was hard.”
Donald Bennett, affectionately known as Donald Duck to the local children, had been visited by two of his eight grandchildren before left his house while his wife went to the hairdressers.
Mrs Bennett’s statement explained how she had returned from her appointment and was surprised that Mr Bennett was not at home.
The statement read: “I got home and I didn’t have a key.
“I waited for Donald for about an hour before I started walking to the park.
“Then I saw my son Michael coming towards me.
“He told me his dad had died.”
Mr Bennett, who had four children, Michael, Patricia, Jane and John, and 11 great grandchildren, died from chest injuries caused by multiple fractures as a result of the vehicle impact.
An eye witness who was at Pudsey Park in Leeds, West Yorks., at the time of the incident on June 1, 2013, described how she had seen Mr Bennett walking just ahead of the police van before she noticed the van began to move.
Jessica Smith told the court: “I saw Mr Bennett walking down the slope with a walking stick in one hand and an ice cream in the other.
“He looked quite frail and he was walking very slowly.
“A matter of seconds after I saw him I saw the police van moving down the slope. Mr Bennett had his back to the van.
“At first I thought there was someone in the van and it was hard to see because the Windows were blacked out.
“I stepped towards the van, put my hand out and said wait as I thought it had someone in it.”
Miss Smith, who was visiting her father in Leeds on the day of the accident, added: “The van knocked Mr Bennett down and it carried on rolling until Mr Bennett was no longer visible.
“After that some men came to van to stop it rolling any further.
“I could only see Mr Bennett’s ankle sticking out underneath the passenger side and his ice cream was on the floor.”
The inquest, due to last four days at Wakefield Coroners Court, West Yorks., continues.