Woman not charged over girls' school crash deaths

School photo images of Nuria Sajjad, left, and Selena Lau - Nuria has glasses and her long dark hair in bunches; Selena is smiling at the camera and has part of her shoulder-length dark hair in a plait
Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau, both eight, died when a Land Rover ploughed into their school playground [Family handouts]

A woman who killed two eight-year-old girls when her car crashed into a school in south-west London will not face criminal charges, the Crown Prosecution (CPS) has said.

Nuria Sajjad and Selena Lau died after a Land Rover crashed into an end-of-term tea party at The Study Preparatory School in Wimbledon on 6 July 2023.

The families have been informed by the CPS the woman who was driving will not be charged as she had suffered an epileptic seizure.

Claire Freemantle, the driver of the vehicle, expressed her "deepest sorrow" and said she had "no recollection of what took place".

The girls' families said "justice has neither been done, nor has been seen to be done today".

They said so many lives were "irreparably shattered" and they remained "unconvinced" that the investigation had been conducted thoroughly.

The two families said hundreds of people - parents, teachers, children, neighbours, friends and family members – would never be able to lead "normal" lives again.

"All the victims of the events of 6 July 2023 did nothing wrong. We were all in the safest place we could have been outside our own homes.

"We were celebrating a day filled with joy. Nuria and Selena’s lives were taken in a moment," they said in a statement.

"Some of us will never experience joy again."

The CPS said Ms Freemantle had an epileptic seizure behind the wheel, which caused her to lose control of the vehicle which then drove into the school.

Several other people were also injured in the crash.

The CPS said there was no evidence Ms Freemantle had ever suffered a similar seizure before and she had no previously diagnosed medical condition.

An overhead view of the scene of the Land Rover crashed into the schoolol playground
The CPS found Claire Freemantle was not in control when she drove into the school [PA Media]

In their statement, the girls' parents, Sajjad Butt, Smera Chohan, Franky Lau, Jessie Deng, said they felt the process had been "questionable".

"We continue to live with horrific memories, some of us will never physically recover from our injuries, and the pain of our loss will never subside," they said.

"And yet, it is suggested that we must continue to live with the claim that the person solely responsible for the deaths of two and the maiming of others bears no consequence for the actions that they solely are responsible, without providing us with sufficient evidence that no criminal act was conducted.

"We remain unconvinced that the Crown Prosecution Service has reached a decision based on all the facts."

Floral tributes left outside school in days following crash
The families of the two girls said lives were "irreparably shattered" [Reuters]

Ms Freemantle said her "heartfelt sympathy" went out to all of the children and families affected, and especially to the parents of Nuria and Selena.

"As a mother, I understand there can be no words that adequately express the pain and loss resulting from what happened in those horrendous moments while I was unconscious," she added.

Her solicitor, Mark Jones, said her epilepsy had "never previously manifested itself" and Ms Freemantle "had always enjoyed good health".

Jaswant Narwal, chief crown prosecutor, said the CPS had "carefully considered this complex and sensitive case, taking into consideration all the material gathered as part of the lengthy and detailed police investigation".

“Because there is nothing to suggest the driver could have done anything to predict or prevent this tragedy, it is not in the public interest to pursue a criminal prosecution," she said.

Ms Narwal said the CPS had considered Ms Freemantle's medical records and received evidence from neurological specialists who agreed it was the first seizure she had experienced.

She added the CPS had kept the families informed on the progress of the case and explained the decisions made.

"Our thoughts remain with them today, as well as with the other injured victims and the wider school community upon whom this tragic incident has had a profound impact,” Ms Narwal added.

'Talented and beautiful'

Det Ch Supt Clair Kelland said: "I can understand that some may be confused - perhaps even feel let down - by this outcome, and want to give every reassurance that our officers worked tirelessly through every detail of the incident to ensure a complete investigation be passed to the CPS."

She added that in order to bring charges against the driver there needed to be an "element of responsibility" which was "simply not borne out on this occasion".

A statement released by Sharon Maher, head, and Helen Lowe, interim head between 2022-2023 at The Study, described Nuria and Selena as "talented and beautiful".

They added: "We are a close knit school community which has been deeply affected by this incident.

"We now have the opportunity for the school and parents to ask questions of the police over the coming days and we are hoping this will provide some clarity as to how this decision was reached."

The Met Police said an inquest into the deaths would take place.

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