'She was beautiful, deep down to her soul': Heartbroken fiance speaks as inquest on Storm Doris victim Tahnie Martin begins
The heartbroken fiance of Tahnie Martin, who was killed when she was struck by debris in Wolverhampton city centre during Storm Doris, told her inquest: "She was our future."
Shaun Lee read a statement as Miss Martin's inquest opened today, saying: "It is difficult to find the words. She had so much to look forward to. Our lives will never be the same again."
He ended by quoting F Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Beautiful and Damned', saying: "She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn't beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul."
Miss Martin, from Stafford, was killed on February 23 as she walked along Dudley Street with a University of Wolverhampton colleague. A statement from a witness was also read to the inquest. She described seeing a piece of wood being blown 'like a piece of paper' in the high winds before it struck Miss Martin.
The inquest heard how Miss Martin and Mr Lee first met when they were both working at Bostik. They met on Mr Lee's first day, when Miss Martin was trying to fix a computer. They started dating shortly afterwards and became engaged in January 2017.
The court heard how, in her last Valentine's Day card to Mr Lee, Miss Martin had written how she was so excited to spend the rest of her life with him and that 2017 was going to be 'their year'.
Mr Lee said Miss Martin had originally wanted to become a war correspondent and studied American studies and journalism at Lincoln University before deciding she wanted to move into marketing.
During her school years, she had developed an interest in the Holocaust and had struck up a friendship with a Holocaust survivor. Because of this, her family had set up a donation page in her name following her death for the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Newark.
So far, almost £1,000 has been raised in her name and the centre is to shortly plant a white rose bush in her name with a plaque in her memory.
The jury heard that Miss Martin had most recently completed a degree in marketing at Birmingham University, graduating with first class honours.
She had secured a role in the marketing department at the University of Wolverhampton as maternity cover and was due to start her permanent position the Monday after her death.
She had also just bought a house with Mr Lee.
A statement from witness Rebecca Cresswell who was sat in the second floor Marks and Spencer coffee shop at the time was also read out at the inquest. It said: "The weather was very bad – there were big gusts of wind.
"I was looking out of the window and saw a large wood panel picked up like it was a piece of paper.
"I could tell it was a heavy object. It was lifted off a rooftop off the Mander Centre. It moved quite rapidly."
The court heard how Ms Cresswell jumped on a chair to properly see what was happening with the wood.
She continued: "For a minute it was upright and I could see it was about 6ft by 4ft and had metal on it.
"It moved forward and for a minute I thought it was coming towards me but then it began to drop."
The panel dropped to the ground in front of Starbucks.
Ms Cresswell described seeing two women from behind in the path of the debris.
"I saw it make contact with the women," Ms Cresswell added.
"I turned to the elderly lady who was sat to my right and said I had a bad feeling and I thought someone had been killed."
Ms Martin, from Stafford, worked at the University of Wolverhampton.
Raman Sarpal, head of marketing at the University of Wolverhampton, was walking with Miss Martin when the tragedy happened.
In her statement, Ms Sarpal described how Miss Martin joined her shopping in the city centre on the day she died.
Ms Sarpal said: "The weather was really bad. We were walking as close together as we could and had our coats wrapped up around us.
"One second we were talking about how windy it was and the next we were both on the floor. I remember hearing a clattering sound. It felt like something had hit us. I was saying to Tahnie I could get up. Then I saw her. The rest is a bit of a blur.
"I remember someone helping me up and putting me on a bench. A doctor spoke to me."
The inquest, before a jury, is expected to last until Friday.