Victim Impact Statement
Following the sentencing of Shelagh Robertson under the insanity act in Cambridge Crown Court yesterday the family have released the full victim impact statement that was summarised in court. The full document is made available below on behalf of Louis' family. The family would like to thank all the people who have helped and supported us since this tragic event and continue to seek to ensure no other family goes through this again.
Louis Steven James was the sweetest happiest, joyful and most beautiful baby, he was perfectly ours. He was our lives, he still is. We love, adore and cherish him. Every moment we had with Louis was so special and we loved every moment. Louis knew only love and cuddles before he was killed by Shelagh Robertson.
Louis’ future and all his potential stolen. A life sentence for us, his family, our community and everyone who reads his story.
Louis did not die instantly. As his parents we must live with the pain he must have felt and how distressed he must have been. He died without his mam-ma and in that hour it was the longest they had ever been apart.
His injuries too horrific to write. Injuries caused by Shelagh Robertson.
We live with and are tortured by the knowledge we could not prevent, help and soothe the pain of our son. This basic instinct of any mother and father taken away from us.
Chris sat next to Louis, trying to keep him warm. His little bruised face still smiling. He was so cold it was unimaginable. Chris didn’t want to move him as he looked so peaceful, but the doctors needed to remove tubes and wires and ensure he was all snuggled up.
In the end Chris had to leave and go and see Rachael. The fact that both of us couldn’t kiss our little Louis goodbye and goodnight will hurt forever.
No parent should have to arrange and attend their child’s funeral. Chris had to do this on his own. Rachael must live with the fact she wasn’t there with Chris when he needed her the most.
Louis’ ashes rest on our bedside table so he is next to us when we go to sleep and when we wake up. This is all we physically have left of our baby.
We are forever haunted and cruelly tortured by the birthdays, Christmases and milestones we won’t have with Louis.
Chris spent last Valentine’s Day holding Rachael’s hand while she slept, unable to know whether he’d ever speak to her again and whether she would ever fully wake up.
Rachael spent her first Mother’s Day in a neuro rehabilitation ward unable to walk, barely able to open her right eye, use a mobile telephone, read or write. Agonisingly processing what had happened. Rachael was two hours from home. A home she could not remember. Our home which we can no longer live in.
Our lives have been ripped apart and what we knew was true and secure ended abruptly. Our lives have been changed forever.
The grief and pain are crippling. Even breathing can hurt and is debilitating. The grief effects every aspect of our lives. We have had to accept we may never be happy again.
Doctors didn’t think Rachael would survive, the first 72 hours was going to be a critical time and although they worked tirelessly at several points Chris could tell they were getting ready for the worst. It was ok though. If Rachael didn’t survive, at least she would be with Louis.
Chris felt guilty even wishing for her to be ok as they didn’t spend a day apart on earth and he just wanted them to be together.
On the third day, Chris thought it was time to say goodbye and brought Louis from the mortuary to sit with Rachael in intensive care. We sat in intensive care the last time as a family. Louis still in Chris’ arms and Rachael attached to machines in a coma and not even breathing for herself.
This is the last time our family was together.
Machines had to mechanically wean Rachael’s body from producing breast milk. Louis’ milk that had to be disposed of.
Chris asked the doctors what they usually do in this situation, and one, a neurological consultant of 40 years said they’d never been involved in anything as bad as this. With a tear running down their face, wearing a visor and mask sue to Covid rules, they just said, you’re doing so well to just be here, together, for one last time.
Our family experienced the most horrendous minutes, hours, days, weeks, months. They are still trying to cope today. Devastated by the loss of Louis and keeping a vigil for Rachael as she fought to stay alive, against the odds. The pain and fear cannot be adequately described but it changed lives and it stays with them. Pain caused by the selfish actions of one person.
The grief and despair take your voice and breath away. You struggle to make a single noise. Sometimes the tears don’t fall, your body is just stunned as you try to breath. You’re screaming and howling silently.
The extensive muscular skeletal damage to Rachael was horrific. Rachael had a fractured skull, cheek, jaw, neck, wrist, back, hip and leg in two places. More of her body broken than not.
There have been numerous secondary injuries for Rachael. These have limited the movement of her right arm which she cannot straighten and was over an inch shorter than her left due to muscle damage.
To cap it off, Shelagh Robertson left Rachael with a life changing traumatic brain injury, severe mental anguish and distress. We also both suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
We are hit with the harsh and cruel reality of the loss of Louis and the situation given to us by Shelagh Robertson every time we wake up and every moment of every day.
Rachael was a healthy and active new mam-ma, so happy, but is now disabled, physically and emotionally broken and childless due to one person’s greedy actions.
Rachael will have to have specialist medical and rehabilitation care for the rest of her life. This ranges extensively, from her jaw, bite and face to her right eye which means she suffers with double vision, limited eye movement and poor pupil dilation. Rachael has limited to no depth perception. Injuries that may never improve.
Since waking up from a coma Rachael has had to re-teach herself how to swallow, eat, sit-up, brush her teeth and hair, use a knife and fork, use her bowels, dress herself, go the toilet fully herself, shower unaccompanied and walk.
Rachael is now having to rebuild her body and its composition. Rachael has a full-time rehabilitation commitment. Her successful career and baby classes have been replaced with physio and therapy sessions.
We should have been watching Louis sit up for the first time and teaching Louis to walk instead Rachael had to re-learn herself.
In the early stages of her recovery Rachael had to relearn the last ten years of her life. She had to relearn the year, her age and where she lived.
The loss of her father and grandpa who both were hugely influential and were close with Rachael, had to be relearnt and remembered.
The worst part though was Rachael remembering Louis. For 8 weeks after Shelagh Robertson killed him, Rachael had no recollection that she had even had a child let alone that he was gone. Every day Chris visited of the 118 days Rachael was in hospital, he dreaded the point where he would have to give her the most devastating news.
During this time, it felt like a life sentence. Louis is gone, Rachael is in hospital and Chris is on his own. The family he would have talked to not able to help and not ever knowing if he would speak to Rachael again. Perhaps if he didn’t have to it would be easier.
Eventually though Rachael was able to see a picture on Chris’ phone. Chris knew that she knew who it was and Rachael asked, “was I pregnant?… Something bad must have happened.” At this point Chris had agreed with the doctors not to say anything until we were confident she would remember it, so we wouldn’t have to tell her over and over again. It was cruel, but Chris knew that Rachael knew…. He could just tell.
Eventually Rachael’s memory came back enough and she remembered Louis’ name, how could she ever forget? The distress experienced is unimaginable but sadly we know it. It’s a moment you can never forget, no matter how hard you try.
Imagine asking when your Dad is coming to visit you to be told he had died years before. The pain and trauma Chris went through telling Rachael is life changing.
We are forever scared and traumatised by the pieces coming together over Louis and Rachael remembering him for the first time.
Rachael is having to relearn how to be a 37-year-old women. Everything taken for granted is now a challenge for Rachael. This includes simple household tasks like putting away the food shopping, emptying and filling the dishwasher and sorting washing.
Rachael’s career is over. That chapter has been closed. Chris had 8 months off work and has put his career on hold to fully process what happened to us. When you have life changing overwhelming trauma and grief your capacity to deal with issues and challenges reduces dramatically.
We both worked hard for our careers, we were and still are highly motivated people albeit our priorities have significantly changed. We were proud of our careers and educational achievements. These were significant for people in their mid 30s. Now writing is incredible hard for Rachael who can’t hold and use a pencil correctly.
Rachael’s memory, processing ability and speed have been reduced and permanently altered.
We felt we had been doing everything right, we achieved everything ourselves from humble beginnings, our careers, our home, our loving family. We could provide Louis every opportunity that we wish we had and be the parents that Louis would be proud of.
Chris had to delay completing his masters at Cambridge University. Throughout this now three-year course he has experienced the highest personal achievements and the lowest.
We feel we are now faced with redefining ourselves and our lives. Rachael has lost all confidence in herself and her physical, cognitive and mental abilities.
Rachael thought for a long time she was simply a lost cause and valueless. We truly wish we could have taken Louis’ place and Louis was safe. We’ll always know that somehow, we should have done better for him. We were accountable for keeping him safe.
Our new normal is filled with uncertainty and dread. We are fearful of the life we been left.
Fearful of what could happen to our loved ones and what future harm strangers unwilling to recognise their limitations like Shelagh Robertson could do.
Our sense of security has been altered forever. Rachael feels vulnerable to walk on her own in public. She is no longer the independent and assertive Rachael she once was.
We are eternally grateful to those that ran towards Rachael and Louis that day and those that have been involved in Rachael’s recovery. We can never thank you enough for your efforts, kindness, bravery, skills, passion and professionalism.
There has been no remorse offered by Shelagh Robertson. No emotions have been shown. No sympathy or empathy has been shown to us and our family. Who live only streets away from her.
Whether a court can hold you accountable or not, the physical and emotional damage that has been caused by Shelagh Robertson’s actions and her choices are extensive and affect so many. The effects are long term and everlasting.
We struggle every day, every hour and every moment with the loss of our beautiful Louis, his and our futures and our resultant lives.
This is our life sentence. We constantly blame ourselves. We question every decision we ever made and whether that lead to Louis being killed. We live with overwhelming feelings of guilt.
This felt like it was a personal attack for a long time. Shelagh Robertson would have seen Rachael and Louis walking and his pram before killing Louis and nearly killing Rachael. The choice to get in the car that day was hers to make and she did. Whether she knew she wasn’t able to drive, we’ll never know, but that doesn’t change anything, history will record that it was her and her alone that killed Louis.
Maybe one day she will have the respect and the humility to be able to apologise and limit adding to our pain and distress.
It’s all senseless, the result of greed, selfishness and arrogance.
For us the implications permanent.
A life sentence like no other.
We didn’t just lose our son Louis, we lost our identities, our confidence and our ability to trust.
Our new ‘normal’ is being without Louis, but he will always be in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls.
We know we’ll always be together.
Rachael Louise Ann and Christopher James Thorold
The Louis Thorold Foundation is a charity registered in England and Wales with the aim of preventing all deaths of children on Britain's roads. For more information about our campaigns or to donate visit www.louisthorold.com.