A mother grieving for her younger daughter, killed in a car
accident on the way to Fashion Week last year, has
acknowledged the close friend responsible was also suffering.
Millie Constance McCutcheon, 20, of Dunedin, was driving her
father's car near Morrinsville last August 31 when she failed
to see a truck and trailer unit almost stopped in front of
her and ran into the back of it. Her passenger, 20-year-old
Felicity Paige Wren, was severely injured and died.
The two young women were flatmates and close friends, a fact
Ms Wren's mother, Anne, mentioned in the victim statement she
read in the Dunedin District Court yesterday when McCutcheon
was sentenced for causing Felicity Wren's death by driving
carelessly on State Highway 27 at Patetonga.
Mrs Wren said she knew Millie was suffering. And there was
nothing the court could impose as a penalty that could come
close to "what Millie has to live with every day, for the
rest of her life".
"We hope she can find a way to move forward but realise that
will take a long time."
In the statement from herself and her husband, Mrs Wren spoke
of the shock and disbelief when told their youngest child had
been killed, two and a-half months short of her 21st
birthday. They were a few days into an overseas holiday at
She described their younger daughter as uncomplicated, happy,
smiley, beautiful "inside and out" with the rare gift of
being "a listener", a quality that brought her many friends.
She was studying photography at Massey University in
Wellington and was excelling.
Mrs Wren said it was difficult to accept their expected
future with the daughter "mostly known as Fliss" had gone -
her career, marriage and grandchildren - that was something
that would never go away from them. And although it was five
months since the accident, it still felt "very raw" to them.
Some days they were still in disbelief. It had not got easier
"If anything, it feels harder as this is the longest we have
ever have gone without talking to Fliss or seeing her."
They would talk two or three times a week, catch up on
Facebook and on visits home or to Nelson to visit family
together or to Wellington.
While her husband had gone back to work, she had not been
able to do so, Mrs Wren said.
She often had moments of "absolute grief or quiet tears every
day". Learning to adapt and cope with the effects of such a
tragic event in their lives was an ongoing process.
Sometimes they coped well and, at other times, "the grief
just swallows you up". They had a "magnificent" support group
of family and friends, "but ultimately you have to learn to
cope for yourselves" .
They had gone through "some of those terrible firsts" - their
daughter's 21st, Christmas and New Year - with family around.
But there was an enormous hole - "a Fliss-shaped hole" -
where she should have been, and it would never be filled.
Tidying up her daughter's affairs been particularly
difficult, Mrs Wren said. It was hard being pragmatic and
businesslike when talking about a daughter's life and death.
The Wrens were critical of the state of New Zealand roads,
that vehicles could stop on a busy main highway without
anywhere to pull over first.
"I have seen this more and more and am certainly a very
nervous passenger now," Mrs Wren said.
Judge Michael Crosbie thanked the couple for their courage in
reading their statement in court. He said it was important
for Millie to hear it too. As a parent with children of a
similar age, he said he could "only imagine" what the family
was going through.
Having earlier indicated he would be imposing no penalty
other than a conviction and a driving ban, the judge said the
charge of careless driving causing injury or death was the
lowest level of culpability that existed in law, where a
moment's inattention, a very sudden fall from the standard of
being a reasonably prudent driver, could have "incredibly
Because of that, Parliament recognised people "can and do
"In cases like this, the law appears a very blunt
instrument," he told the families of both young women.
He agreed this country's roads could be "very unforgiving
He convicted McCutcheon and disqualified her for one year and
one day. No penalty was necessary.
"That's the message from Mr and Mrs Wren," he told the
And he said he was confident she would learn from the
experience and endure what had happened.