My six-year-old son was killed in front of me, now I help stop it happening to others

Mum should be celebrating her son’s 16th birthday but faces another heartbreaking milestone without him.
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A Merseyside mum should be looking forward to celebrating her son’s 16th birthday - but instead she and her family are facing another heartbreaking milestone without him. Bobby Colleran, from Huyton, was just six when he died after being hit by a van on Leyfield Road in West Derby. Devastatingly, little Bobby was killed right in front of his mum, Joanne on the day of her birthday.

Shortly after Bobby’s death, Joanne set up the Bobby Colleran Trust which has campaigned tirelessly for better road safety across the Liverpool City Region ever since. The trust’s ‘Slow Down For Bobby’ and ‘Take Care For Bobby’ campaigns are now ubiquitous across the region and are designed to help prevent further loss of life in the vicinity of schools and other busy roads.

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More recently, the Bobby Colleran Trust has launched a bereavement support service which works with children to better understand their loss and grief and to develop coping strategies to manage anxieties, fears and sadness.

Reflecting on Bobby’s loss ahead of what would have been his 16th birthday next month, Joanne opened up about what inspired her to set up the bereavement support for young people. She said: “Like me, my boys will suffer all their life. The impact Bobby’s death had on the whole of my family was huge and I didn’t know where to turn.

“My other children were terribly affected by Bobby’s death and my eldest son just completely shut down - none of us knew how to cope. When you suffer something like this you are out of your mind. As a mum, you just put yourself to one side and try to help your kids. I tried everything to get us the support we needed. I went everywhere but got nowhere.”

One of the primary motivations for the creation of the bereavement service was the fears Joanne had about her own family. She added: “I was terrified I would lose my eldest son because he was really struggling to come to terms with Bobby’s death.

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“I knew we needed help and that’s the same for every family who have experienced tragedy. However, the structure of support there was, didn’t work for my kids so things needed to change.”

According to statistics compiled by the Local Government Association, there were 1731 children killed or seriously injured in road casualties in England during the period 2022-23.

Bobby's Base in West Derby pictured Bobby's mum Joanne Colleran. Image: LDRSBobby's Base in West Derby pictured Bobby's mum Joanne Colleran. Image: LDRS
Bobby's Base in West Derby pictured Bobby's mum Joanne Colleran. Image: LDRS

Almost ten years on from Bobby’s death, Joanne and the trust are hoping to further raise awareness around road safety and the importance of child-centred bereavement counselling by launching a fresh campaign.

The ‘Wear Blue For Bobby‘ campaign will see some of Liverpool’s most iconic landmarks lit up blue on Bobby’s 16th birthday - Wednesday March 13  - including the Radio City Tower, the Liver Building and the Liverpool Media Wall. 

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The trust is also running a competition which will see one local school receive a renovation of their playground area. The results will transform the school’s outdoor space and will mirror the spectacular and colourful space created at Bobby’s Base, the charity’s centre in West Derby.

Although the Colleran family’s grief doesn’t get any easier with time, Bobby’s birthday is always cause for remembrance and for reiterating the importance of the trust’s work to prevent heartbreak for other families. Joanne said: “Milestones as they come up are hard. Bobby is still very much a part of me because he works with me to stop it from happening to anyone else. He would love that. He loved to help people. We’re doing it together to keep people safe.”

The impact the charity has had on the region is clear.  Signage, road markings and safety advice is displayed across Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley - the borough Bobby was born in.

Recognising Joanne’s work in establishing the Bobby Colleran Trust, a spokesperson for Knowsley Council, said: “Knowsley Council welcomes any initiative which highlights the importance of road safety, including the recently adopted Vision Zero strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries. The date which would have been Bobby’s 16th birthday is a tragic reminder of the importance of road safety.  Our thoughts are with Bobby’s family at this time.”

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In reference to the council’s work around road safety, the spokesperson added: “The council’s road safety team delivers a comprehensive programme of education and training to all primary school children in Knowsley.

“This programme teaches children about the importance of personal responsibility near roads and that, because they can’t always rely on drivers to drive safely and in accordance with the law, they need to keep themselves safe.

“In addition to the schools programme, our team are also actively engaged with drivers on a range of themes including safe and appropriate speeds.”

Reflecting on the charity’s efforts in the years after her son’s death, Joanne added: “I remember thinking when Bobby had the accident there had been so many children who had been knocked down on that road. It had gone on for years.

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“I couldn’t stop asking why something hadn’t been done about it because I was always scared of that road. I couldn’t help thinking that if something had been done earlier, Bobby would still be here. I never accept what happened to Bobby because it shouldn’t have happened. There’s things we can do to stop these things happening and I’ll keep doing them for as long as it takes.”