May 2017

Van driver jailed for killing teen in Birmingham Road

A VAN driver from Walsall who knocked down and killed a teenage girl on her way to school has been jailed for causing death by dangerous driving.

Neel Balu, 43, was driving a Mercedes Sprinter when it collided with 17-year-old Zoe Shapiro as she used a pedestrian crossing on a dual carriageway in Birmingham Road.

The self-employed builder was driving towards Birmingham when the collision took place in February 2016.

Zoe, a student at the Q3 Academy in Great Barr, was just a few steps away from reaching the safety of the central reservation when she was hit.

She suffered serious injuries and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she tragically died.

Zoe’s parents have paid tribute to their daughter.

Mum Joanne Corbett said: “For 17 years I had the privilege and honour of being mother to an amazing, beautiful, kind and exceptional young woman. She was intelligent, funny and lit up those who she met. Zoe was my first born and only daughter. She was big sister to Maximus and TJ. Maximus was born severely disabled and passed away at the age of four.

“When Max was born, Zoe became more than a daughter, she was my best friend, my biggest support and my rock. When Max died, Zoe was just 14, I could not have functioned without her. She got me through my darkest hours. She was, and always will be, my inspiration.

“But on February 24, 2016, my life was destroyed and changed forever, beyond all comprehension. My amazing daughter was cruelly and senselessly robbed from myself, my only remaining child and my family, who love this beautiful girl beyond words.

“I try and control my mind from wondering, but this is an impossible task. Not to think of all the “Never will be’s” and the “what ifs”. But it is hard for me not to sob when I think of her beautiful face, her distinctive laugh or when her post arrives, when I hear her favourite music or think about her laughing along with her little brother TJ, a bond now stolen from him, or hearing her cheeky banter when she arrived home.

“Zoe would have been 18 on the 16 September. Instead of shopping for her gifts, and buying her her first car, as I intended, I was instead dressing her grave, alongside her little brother Max. I miss her in so many ways, cuddled up on the sofa with TJ under her favourite blanket. I miss singing and dancing along with her to her favourite songs, filled with happiness and laughter.”

Birmingham Crown Court heard Balu, who was arrested at the scene, had been speeding at the time of the collision and went through a red light before hitting Zoe.

He claimed that he was trying to wipe away ice from his window and had been dazzled by the sun which distracted him.

Today (Thursday), he was jailed for seven years after being unanimously convicted by a jury. He was also disqualified from driving for nine and a half years and will be required to take an extended retest before being allowed behind the wheel again.