Tributes to 'beautiful' mum-of-eight who died in M25 collision involving stolen van driving the wrong way
A family has paid tribute to a 'beautiful' mother-of-eight who died in a collision involving a stolen van which was being chased by the police.
Zoe Hawes, of Canvey Island, Essex, was travelling with her husband to go on holiday in celebration of her 40th birthday when the car she was travelling in became involved in a collision on Sunday (February 4). Her husband remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Officers had been chasing the Citroen van which is understood to have crashed into three cars, including Hawes'. A man in his 20s has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. A file has been passed to police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), to investigate.
Relatives of Hawes have now set up a GoFundMe page to ask for donations to help pay for her funeral, which has already raised over £6,000.
Writing on the page, friend Katrina Cadge said: "The very sad news came on Sunday that Zoe Hawes, who is loved by her husband, children, family and friends, was tragically taken to soon.
"She was a beautiful kind-hearted young lady. She has left behind 8 beautiful children and 2 grandchildren and her husband, who is in a critical condition in hospital. The children are having to face life without there mum so to help I’ve set up this GoFundMe to help the children with the cost of hospital visits to see there dad, also funeral cost and so that the kids can have some quality time together.
"They are very grateful for anyone’s donations. Let’s give Zoe the beautiful send off she deserves, the family appreciate all the help and love they are receiving and would like to send a big thank you."
Many people have left tributes to Hawes on the page. One woman said: "Zoe, we made friends on holiday with you and your beautiful family and stayed in touch ever since. I cannot believe what I am reading. You are all in our thoughts."
Another said: "Zoe was such an amazing friend, beautiful, caring and much more. Sending thoughts, prayers and support to her family and friends at this extremely sad difficult time. RIP beautiful girl."
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the involvement of Hertfordshire police officers before the crash. Police in a marked vehicle had been following a stolen white Citroen Dispatch on the M1 at 3.40am last Sunday morning (February 4).
The officers activated their vehicle's lights and sirens in an attempt to stop the driver of the van. After it failed to stop, officers initiated a pursuit which was abandoned because the risk of continuing was considered too high.
There was a subsequent pursuit of the van shortly before 4am on Breakspear Way, Hemel Hempstead, which was abandoned a few minutes later. A short time later the van was seen by a police officer travelling on the wrong side of the M25. The officer followed the van on the correct side of the road but did not activate the vehicle's lights or sirens.
At approximately 4.08am, the van was involved in a collision with other vehicles on the M25 between junctions 21a and 22 (Watford and St Albans). Two people, including Hawes, died as a result of that collision. The driver of the van was taken to hospital where they remain in a serious condition. A criminal investigation into the fatal crash is being carried out by Essex Police.
Hertfordshire police said they are appealing for witnesses, information and dash cam footage. Four vehicles were involved; the white Citroen Dispatch van, a silver DFSK 580 Glory, a silver Skoda Superb and a black Peugeot 5008.
They said a man in his twenties has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. Detective Inspector Mark Fraser, from Essex Police, said: "Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this collision. I am appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information to get in touch.
"Did you see what happened or the events leading up to the collision? Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you can help. I also want to ask any dashcam owners who were driving in the area to check it and get in touch if you spot something that might help us."
IOPC investigators went to the crash scene and the police post-incident procedure where the officers involved provided their initial accounts.
The IOPC said: 'We are gathering and reviewing evidence as we piece together the circumstances surrounding this incident. This includes securing and reviewing police dashcam footage and officers' body-worn video footage, obtaining motorway CCTV and reviewing police call logs and radio transmissions."
IOPC Regional Director Charmaine Arbouin said: 'Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragic incident. "Given that police officers were pursuing one of the vehicles before the fatal collision, it's important that we independently investigate the actions and decision-making of the officers involved. We will ensure that our enquiries do not impede the police investigation, and we will keep those involved regularly updated."
Anyone with information regarding the incident is being encouraged to come forward by contacting the police on 999 or by emailing Essex Police at [email protected].