Woman dies after being 'catapulted with incredible force' by towpath cyclist

Published: Wednesday, 10 July 2024

IT WAS our Victor Swift who often told that eventually someone will be killed by the speeding towpath cyclists.

And most regrettably it has come to pass with Oxford Crown Court hearing that an 81 years old woman died days after being hit by a pedal cyclist having had no warning that the bicycle was heading towards her, the jury has been told.


Polly Friedhoff was 'catapulted with incredible force' after being hit during a lunchtime walk as she and a friend made their way along the Thames towpath near Iffley Lock at Oxford on November 20th 2022.

She died in hospital 12 days later, the court heard.

Edward Bressan, 56, of Oxford, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of 'causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving,' an offence under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

The prosecution told the jury the cyclist was 'reckless' and the case concerns the nature of Mr Bressan’s driving of his bicycle.

Did not hear a bell

Ewa Huggins, the friend who was with Polly on their routine stroll, told the court:

"I did not hear anything. I did not hear a bell. Quite often cyclists shout when they see pedestrians and are coming from the left or right. I did not hear a bell.

"Polly Friedhoff was 'propelled' by the force of the bike, pushed across the path and fell on her face, without time to try to break her fall.

“Polly was on my left. We were chatting and walking fairly close together. The path is not very wide and suddenly I saw Polly basically flying in front of me and falling.

“She did not have enough time to put her hands out. She just went straight out to the side and lay very uncomfortably with one of her arms out. She fell across the path. She fell about a metre away from me.”

Saw the aftermath

Ms Huggins said the bicycle was flat on the path and the cyclist was on top of it, and added:

“I did not see him hit Polly. I only saw the aftermath when she was catapulted with incredible force.

“Normally, Polly and I have a habit of saying ‘thank you’ when somebody rang a bell. It does not happen often. I presume the bell was not rung. I did not hear it.”

Ewa Huggins told the court that she thought her friend of 40 years was seriously injured on the ground and that the cyclist was sobbing and very upset but she was not focused on him, telling:

I thought she was dead

“She was very badly hurt. She could not speak. I was asking her to give me some sign of life. I was not aware of what the cyclist was doing. I thought she was dead. She was lying uncomfortably. I was telling her to squeeze my hand. There was no response. There was a lot of blood coming out of mouth. She was badly hurt.”

The case continues.