Philip’s serious car crash involving mother and baby

PA

The Duke of Edinburgh hit the headlines early in the new year when he miraculously escaped serious injury in a car crash involving a mother and a baby.

The 97-year-old had been quietly enjoying his retirement before becoming embroiled in the road accident and ensuing PR disaster.

Duke of Edinburgh car crash
Duke of Edinburgh car crash

On the afternoon of January 17, the Land Rover Freelander Philip was driving was hit by another vehicle when he pulled out of a driveway on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on to a busy A road, after being dazzled by the low sun.

The duke’s car flipped over and he was trapped, and had to be rescued through the sun roof by a passing motorist.

Philip, who was driving without a protection officer, was left “very shocked and shaken”.

He reportedly said “I’m such a fool” as he was pulled from the wrecked car by witness Roy Warne.

Aftermath of the Duke of Edinburgh's car crash
Aftermath of the Duke of Edinburgh's car crash

The other vehicle – a Kia – was carrying a nine-month-old baby boy, his mother, who was driving, and another woman – Emma Fairweather.

The baby was unhurt, but both women had to be treated in hospital, and passenger Ms Fairweather, who broke her wrist, called for Philip to be prosecuted if found to be at fault.

Emma Fairweather on This Morning
Emma Fairweather on This Morning

Buckingham Palace said well-wishes had been exchanged with the occupants, but Ms Fairweather said she had only received a message from her police family liaison officer saying: “The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would like to be remembered to you.”

She described her upset that no-one from the royal family had contacted her to offer an apology.

Shortly before her newspaper interview was made public, a lady-in-waiting for the Queen called and left a voicemail.

The duke was given a precautionary check-up in hospital the day after the crash, and was said to have “no injuries of the concern”.

Royal Windsor Horse Show
Royal Windsor Horse Show

Criticism was levelled at Philip for driving at the age of 97.

But AA president Edmund King said GP and family advice is more significant than a person’s age when it comes to how long someone should keep driving.

The duke’s brand-new replacement Land Rover was delivered to the Sandringham estate just hours after the incident.

He was then seen driving without a seatbelt 48 hours after the crash.

Ms Fairweather branded Philip “highly insensitive and inconsiderate”, and he was accused by the chairman of the British Safety Council of sending the “wrong message to the rest of us” by not wearing his seatbelt.

Police spoke to the duke about the legal requirement to wear a belt and he also underwent an eyesight test, which he passed.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh

Author Gyles Brandreth wrote in The Oldie magazine: “What the pictures of the prince back behind the wheel … show is that he wants to live the rest of his life his way and is determined to do just that.”

The duke eventually got in touch with those involved in the accident in the days that followed, writing in a letter to Ms Fairweather: “I would like you to know how very sorry I am for my part in the accident at the Babingley crossroads.”

He added of her broken arm: “I am deeply sorry about this injury.

“I wish you a speedy recovery from a very distressing experience.”

Three weeks after the crash, Buckingham Palace announced that Philip’s driving days on public roads were finally over.

“After careful consideration the Duke of Edinburgh has taken the decision to voluntarily surrender his driving licence,” the palace said.

Norfolk Police confirmed that a file on the investigation into the crash had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which, five days later, announced that Philip will face no further action.

Chris Long, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, said the level of culpability, the duke’s age and his surrender of his driving licence had been taken into account, and it had been decided it is not in the public interest to prosecute.