Pearl Melody Black died from her injuries after the brick wall collapsed on top of her as she walked home from the park with her father and baby brother
A Voice contestant’s toddler daughter was killed a runaway Range Rover after the driver allegedly failed to pull up the hand brake, an inquest has heard.
Pearl Melody Black, who was just 22 months old, died from her injuries after the 4×4 rolled down a steep driveway and into a brick wall, which collapsed and crushed her to death.
Pearl was with her singer Paul, 49, and her eight-month-old brother Ace when the tragedy happened in August 2017, having spent the morning playing in the park.
Black told how his little girl was ‘crushed like a Coke can’ as the car gathered pace and smashed into the garden wall.
Driver Andrew Williams told police he didn’t pull the handbrake right up – using just enough force to secure the 2.6 tonne vehicle.
The inquest heard the handbrake had only been pulled up ‘two notches’ – not enough to secure it.
An investigation discovered the automatic Range Rover had not been left in ‘park’, allowing it to roll down a steep driveway.
The inquest heard ‘angelic’ Pearl was carrying a doll when the dark blue 4×4 rolled down the driveway of Williams’s ex-partner’s home 15 minutes after he parked it.
Pearl was with her singer Paul, 49, and her eight-month-old brother Ace when the tragedy happened in August 2017, having spent the morning playing in the park. The runaway Range Rover crashed into a wall which collapsed on the 22-month-old killing her
Mr Black, dressed in a black suit with a red rose in his lapel, said the vehicle caught Pearl and snatched her out of his grasp.
He told the court: ‘Pearl had just started to walk – I was holding her hand saying ‘Tight, tight tight’, in case there was anything coming up the road.
‘I then heard the rumbling of rubber on tarmac. I could see the vehicle coming towards us. I shouted: ‘Whoa, whoa’.
‘I said: ‘Watch where you are going you stupid ***.’
He threw his baby son to the ground as he was hit by the vehicle himself. Mr Black said: ‘It was like a scene from a horror film.
‘I looked and saw the life going from her face, the life draining from her beautiful brown eyes.
‘I was saying: ‘Come back to daddy, come back to daddy. She was literally limp and lifeless. I was screaming: ‘She’s gone, she’s gone, my poor baby girl.’
Pearl’s heartbroken mother Gemma was not in the court because her husband has tried to protect her from the horror of the accident.
Long distance lorry driver Williams had owned the automatic Range Rover for four years using it as a runaround and to pick up his daughte on Sundays.
He told police at the scene the vehicle was left in ‘park’ and the hand brake was ‘fully applied’.
But in a formal interview later he told officers: ‘I pulled the handbrake up as far as I need to.
‘I had been told not to pull it up fully or it would stretch the cable.
‘To be honest I can’t remember – it was an automatic reaction. Having done it for so long, you just know what you are doing.’
Mr Williams said he couldn’t remember how many notches the hand brake was pulled up on the day of the tragedy.
The court heard he ‘assumed’ the vehicle had gone into ‘park’ when he left it outside his ex-partner’s bungalow in Heolgerrig, Merthyr Tydfil.
The inquest heard the driveway was steep but flattened out at the top where Mr Williams claimed he parked the Range Rover.
Richard Langdon, representing Pearl’s family, asked Mr Williams: ‘Do you have any explanation why the car rolled down the driveway?
He replied: ‘None at all.’
Police accident investigator Gareth Davies said the evidence was that the Range Rover had been left ‘insecure’.
Tattooist Paul and his wife Gemma, 38, said at the time of the tragedy: ‘Pearl was every single star in every single sky. She was as bright as the stars, when she looked at you with those eyes and she would melt your heart’
He told the hearing: ‘If the handbrake was applied it would not have come down the drive in the first place. That would defy the laws of physics, it doesn’t make any sense.
‘The handbrake wasn’t fully applied, it was on two notches, and the car wasn’t in park.’
Mr Davies said tests on the vehicle found the wheels could move freely ‘with very little effort’ when the handbrake was pulled up for only two notches.
He added: ‘My concern is that the vehicles left insecure – that’s what the evidence is telling me.’
The inquest heard the vehicle was well maintained, had a valid MOT and the hand brake met legal standards.
Williams’s schoolgirl daughter Katie Price said in a statement that her father had pulled on the the handbrake after they had been shopping together.
She was in the house with her parents who were checking charity raffle tickets when they heard ‘a loud bang’.
Williams’s ex-partner paramedic Gillian Price, said: ‘I could see the Range Rover had smashed through the wall opposite.
‘I could see Paul Black holding a lifeless child to his chest.’
Tests have been carried out on the 17-year-old Range Rover after it was recovered from the scene. Pearl was transported to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil where she was pronounced dead
Mrs Price gave CPR to little Pearl until the energy services arrived.
The inquest in Pontypridd heard Mr Black began smashing the RangeRover with a hammer.
Neighbour Rebecca Davies said: ‘Paul looked to be in a panic, there were bits of wall all over the place.
‘Paul was shouting and screaming and golding the little girl to his chest.
‘I could see the little girl’s head was badly swollen and she wasn’t breathing.’
Tattooist Paul and his wife Gemma, 38, said at the time of the tragedy: ‘Pearl was every single star in every single sky.
‘She was as bright as the stars, when she looked at you with those eyes and she would melt your heart.
‘She was the reddest pearl in the ocean and the sweetest melody ever written.
‘She was the greatest dancer and she has left a massive hole in our hearts, the world will be a darker place without her.’
Paul appeared on The Voice in 2015 joking that he was the son of Sir Tom Jones.
He also put on an American accent to convince judge Will.i.am that he was from the United States.
Pearl’s white coffin was taken by horse drawn hearse for three miles through MerthyrTydfil with hundreds of people lining the route to say their goodbyes to the little girl.
Paul, who carried her into the chapel, said later: ‘She was so intelligent, so clever, and so funny.
‘That is why I wanted an extravagant send off because I always said she was going to be a star.’
Glamorgan Coroner Andrew Barkley described it as an ‘unspeakable’ tragedy.
He said: ‘The vehicle was out of control, with no driver – it was heading towards them.
‘The gear lever was not in the correct position – not in park.
‘It was in a midway point between park and neutral in what has been described as a false neutral position.
‘The handbrake had not been applied in any way to hold the vehicle.
‘Mr Williams did not count the number of clicks, sadly it was not sufficient to secure the vehicle on the driveway.
‘It started to creep down the slope due to the force of gravity – it was out of control with the terrible and devastating consequences we have heard today.
‘The issue here is driver operation, rather than any mechanical fault with the vehicle.
‘This is vey much an issue of driver error.
‘No one can help be touched by this sad tragedy.’
Mr Barkley recorded a narrative verdict that Pearl died as a result of an accident.
Mr Williams could not be prosecuted because the 15-year-old Range Rover was parked in a private driveway.
The Black family’s solicitor Richard Langdon said after the hearing they would be asking he Crown Prosecution Service for a review of the case.
He said: ‘It appears to us there is a prospect of bringing a prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter as a result of the evidence that was given today.’
Paul and his wife, of Heolgerrig, Merthyr Tydfil, have had a baby since the tragedy.
The inquest, in Pontypridd, continues.