Monday, 12 March 2018

The day I accidentally killed a little boy

Maryann Gray
In 1977 Maryann Gray was a 22-year-old college graduate with her whole life ahead of her, when a little boy darted out in front of her car. For years, Maryann didn’t talk about Brian, but she thought about him constantly – and his death has had a lasting influence on her life.
I was in a terrific mood that day. I was moving from the little college town of Oxford in rural Ohio into a big old rambling house in Cincinnati with a bunch of other people. I was so excited.
I’d been in graduate school but I’d decided I was going to leave. I was happy not knowing what was coming next. I was going to get a job, have fun, see where my passions led me.
I was at the house – we called it an urban commune – painting the room I was moving into. When I finished I thought I’d drive back to my apartment in Oxford which was all packed up and ready for the move – it was a warm day in June and I thought it would be great to take a swim.
The road started out as freeway but quickly became a rural highway, one lane in each direction. The speed limit was 45 or 50mph, fairly fast for that kind of road, it was quite busy and I was in a line of cars doing the speed limit.
I passed a little outpost of houses whose mailboxes were on the opposite side of the street. As I passed the houses a little blond boy darted out, moving from the mailbox to his house. I saw him at the last second. I tried to swerve. There was no way to miss him.
I hit the little boy and he flew up into the air and then landed on the pavement. I pulled over and ran across the street.
I was so distressed that I don’t really remember those minutes. I was hiding behind a bush and screaming. I heard myself and I thought, “What is that? Who’s doing that?”
And then I realised it was me.
The boy was receiving first aid in the road. There were lots of people attending to him and people gathering on the side of the road.
I was very, very frightened. I knew I had done something terrible.
It took 20 minutes for the police to arrive. They didn’t wait for an ambulance, they just put the boy in the back of a police car and left.
I’d hit the boy right in front of his house and some neighbours had gone to get his mother. She came out of her house screaming her son’s name in agony. She wanted to go to him but the neighbours held her back. Then she started to collapse on her front stoop and they had to hold her up.
It was loud, it was confused, it was very upsetting.
I approached the police. I came forward, raised my hand and said, “I did it, I did it.” They didn’t know I was the one who hit him, I guess nobody saw it.
They sat me in the back of a police car and put a rookie up front to keep an eye on me. I wrote out a statement and talked to them at some length. They looked for skid marks on the road and took some measurements.
The lead officer came back and said, “I just have to tell you the boy died.”

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Maryann Gray spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service.
You can listen again on the BBC iPlayer.
I’d been praying that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked, that maybe he would be OK. I remember just leaning over and crying, and then trying very hard to get hold of myself.
The police agreed to let me wait in one of the neighbour’s houses. She was so kind. She had a daughter just a few years younger than me and I think she knew that her daughter could just as easily have been the perpetrator, like me, or the victim – Brian was his name.
The lead officer came and told me that they were not arresting me – there was no indication that I was negligent or distracted or impaired in any way – but he gave me a little lecture saying, “This child died, that’s a terrible thing, you need to make sure that you never do this again.”
I was pretty angry because the idea that I would do it again was just beyond comprehension.
I called my parents in New York City and I told my mother what had happened. I was crying and I said, “It was an accident, it was an accident.” And my mom said, “Of course it was an accident.”
My father came out the next day. He made a condolence call to the family that had lost their child which must have been unbelievably painful. He stopped by the neighbour’s house to thank them for being so kind to me. He dealt with the car which had to go to a body shop. He got a lawyer so that if there was going to be any legal action I would have protection.
He just tried to make sure that everything that could be taken care of was taken care of.
I spent the first night at a friend’s house, compulsively telling the story of what happened, and then I went back to my apartment, the one that was all packed up and not a very cheerful place, and basically hid there for about a week.
I’d very much been a good girl who worked hard to get good grades and fulfil the expectations of my parents and my professors, but I think I grew up feeling like I always came up a little short and so after the accident I think I was deeply worried at a very unconscious level about whether I was a good person or whether I was a bad person.
There’s a belief system that many people adhere to that we create the condition of our lives – so an angry person perceives an angry or hostile world, and a loving person experiences a kind, giving world. So I thought, “What kind of a person has this experience? I must be a very dangerous person.”
When I got my car back I tried to drive but I kept hallucinating. I would be driving down the road and think I saw somebody walking into the street so I’d slam on the brakes, but there would be nobody there. That’s a very dangerous thing to do – I was so frightened I gave up the car for about two years.
I had flashbacks that would pop into my brain unexpectedly. I could be in the middle of a conversation, washing the dishes, or doing the grocery shopping, and all of a sudden I would be visualising this child flying through the air after I hit him, or a puddle of blood on the road – horrible images.
I spent several years punishing myself by really pushing people away from me. I dated men who treated me very poorly, I didn’t really have friends, I was irritable a lot, and my housemates didn’t particularly enjoy having me around so I moved out of the commune into an apartment where I could just be by myself.
Two years after the accident I moved to California to start a different graduate programme in psychology and that really was a new beginning. I was intellectually engaged and doing work that I felt was important and helpful and that felt really good.
I pretty much stopped talking about the accident, on advice from my parents, who said that if people knew I had done this they would think about me differently.
I often refer to this little boy, Brian, as my ghost, because he became a part of me. His voice in my mind became this very punitive, angry voice that would say, “Don’t get too happy, remember what happened the last time you got happy? You killed a child, you killed me.”

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I heard that voice many times every day, and so although I enjoyed my studies and I loved living in California, there was always that voice holding me back. I had killed a child and I could never forget that.
I thought about Brian the day I got married. I thought about Brian the day my father died. I thought about Brian the day I defended my dissertation. I thought about Brian the day I started a new job. He lived with me.
I married in my early 30s. I told my husband that I’d had this accident but we never talked about it. He didn’t ask and I didn’t want to impose my pain on him – this was my issue to deal with and I didn’t really feel I had the right to ask for comfort.
Before the accident I couldn’t have imagined a life without children. I was the most in-demand babysitter in the neighbourhood when I was at high school. I loved doing it – I would rather babysit than go out with friends.
During that first week after the accident when I was hiding inside my apartment, I heard a voice. I call it an auditory hallucination. The voice said in this very biblical, Old Testament, angry way, “You have taken a child from his mother and as your punishment you can never have your own child”.
I didn’t talk about that for at least 20 years. For all that time.
I was very fearful around children – all I could see were the sharp corners that they might fall against, or the pool where they might drown, the stairs that they might fall down, the knife that they might cut themselves with.
I didn’t want to raise a frightened child and I didn’t think I would be a good mother, so I decided against having children which is a huge regret, but was the right decision for me. I think I would have had a very hard time mothering.
I wanted to get through a set of life benchmarks that are pretty typical – finish my education, get a good job and find a life partner – and soon after, in the mid to late 90s, I decided it was time to go into therapy.
I had carried these memories around with me and they had taken over a large part of my inner life and kept me separate from other people. My friends knew I was a nervous driver, but they didn’t know why. I might be feeling down one day and the accident would be on my mind but I couldn’t talk about it.
People thought they knew me but I didn’t talk about probably the most significant event in my life.
In 2003 there was an accident at Santa Monica Farmers Market. An elderly man had ploughed into a group of people with his car and lots of people had been killed and injured. I lived nearby and we were watching the news coverage on TV and could hear the helicopters overhead.
It was just carnage, it was a terrible scene.
People were on the TV screaming that this 86-year-old man was a murderer, but the idea that he meant to do it just horrified me.
I was distressed by the accident and it was on my mind so much that I closed the door to my office and banged out some words about the empathy I felt for the driver as well as the victims, about my experience, and about the lack of support for people who have accidentally killed other people.
At the time I was in a writing workshop, and I sent what I’d written to the woman who led my group. She called and said, “You should send this to National Public Radio.”
If I had thought there was any chance that they would actually run it I’d probably never have done it. But I sent it off and the next thing I knew NPR were calling, asking me to come in and record the piece.
I was very anxious about it but I thought somebody needed to show some compassion for this guy and others who had accidentally killed.
The piece was broadcast two or three days after the accident.

Where to get help

Accidental Impacts is a website run by Maryann Gray that offers information and support for people trying to cope with causing a serious accident
I was told that I should be prepared for hate mail, for negative comments on the internet, for people calling to harass me. But what happened was completely positive, there was a huge outpouring of support. Close friends that I had never told heard me on the radio and were uniformly compassionate and supportive. They told me I was strong for speaking out and that they were so sorry I had suffered.
Something flowered inside, I felt a great sense of relief and much more connected to the people around me, and to the world. It was like coming out.
I also heard from other people who had accidentally killed people and who’d had experiences similar to mine, the post-traumatic symptoms – the flashbacks, feeling disconnected, difficulty concentrating, and, of course, guilt and shame.
It was very powerful because none of us had ever talked to anybody who’d had the same experience.
I had thought about contacting Brian’s family for years but had held back because I wasn’t sure that they would want to hear from me. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did make an anonymous donation of several thousand dollars to his brother’s college to pay part of his tuition.
Then about 10 years ago I went to Israel on a trip. I’m Jewish and I went with my rabbi and other people from the temple that I belonged to. While I was there I took a Hebrew name, Bracha, which means blessing. I chose it in honour of Brian.
When I got home I wrote a letter to Brian’s mother. I told her I had taken this name to honour the memory of her son, that Brian lived in my heart as I knew he did in hers.
I sent the letter.
It turned out that she had died, so her mail was being forwarded to her surviving son, Brian’s older brother.
One day I was sitting in my office, I picked up the phone and it was him. He’d read the letter and found me online.
We spoke for about 45 minutes. It was an emotional conversation. He was very angry, he told me how much his family had suffered.
They had stopped celebrating Christmas because it was too close to Brian’s birthday and all the usual happy family occasions were muted for them forever. They never changed Brian’s room, they kept it the same, so there was a constant reminder of their son.
None of them ever really stopped grieving.
As we talked he really softened. He hadn’t known I’d made a condolence call and had a brief conversation with his father in the days after the accident. His father had been very kind to me and that had a big impact on him.
At the end of the conversation I said, “What do you want to ask me? You can ask me anything.”
He said, “Were you speeding?”
And I said, “No, I wasn’t speeding. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but your brother darted out into the road.”
He said, “I know. Wrong time, wrong place.”
In that moment I felt forgiven and I think perhaps he was able to feel a kind of pure grief, untinged by the anger that had coloured his mourning.
When we got off the phone I certainly didn’t feel like we were friends but I felt like we had this amazing bond, because we were still mourning this child, and we will always have that in common.
I do forgive myself, but I’m terrified that I’ll hurt somebody else. I live in Los Angeles and I drive all the time, but I’m very cautious.
I have tried to honour Brian, his family and my own experience by reaching out and being a better person, but I don’t think I’ll ever be at peace with the fact that I killed a child. I will never cease to be horrified by that.
All photographs courtesy of Maryann Gray.
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HOME'I took my wife's name – and then the hassle began'

Debbie and Wayne Harding on their wedding day
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Christodoulou Photography
Image caption

Debbie and Wayne Harding on their wedding day
When three men told us why they took their wife’s last name, other readers got in touch to share their experiences. Here two of them explain how it turned out to be way more difficult than they had imagined.

‘My boss refuses to accept my new name’

Wayne Harding, né Nell: I married my wife Debbie in July 2016 and changing my name from mine – Nell – to hers – Harding – caused a big stir among my family and at work. The decision was a no-brainer for me. Debbie has a daughter from a previous relationship and we wanted her to have the same name as the rest of the family. I remember my stepdaughter saying to me that she didn’t want to go to school with a different name, and I completely understood how she felt.
I am South African and most of my family still live there and weren’t able to fly over to Cyprus, where we had our wedding. I didn’t mention my plans to change my name – I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only when I changed my name on Facebook that my dad and my brother found out. They weren’t happy. “It’s just a name really, Dad, it’s not the end of the world,” I said to him on the phone. He told me it was the biggest slap in the face for him and the family. “It really cuts deep, son,” he messaged me later.
But the most surprising reaction came from my workplace. I am a property manager, I deal with about 100 leaseholders living in blocks of flats. When one of my bosses discovered I had changed my name he said I should have consulted him first because it could cause repercussions for the business and its clients. He said people would assume I was in a same-sex marriage and that I would need to make it clear in my email signature that I had married a woman. It was offensive and I felt like he had singled me out.
Apparently they had complaints – although nobody ever said anything to me directly. Eventually the HR manager told me to take that explanation out of my email signature because it was unnecessary. My boss still refuses to accept my new name and insists on using my maiden name instead.
When I changed my name at the bank there were problems too. “We’ve never done a guy before,” said the bank teller in disbelief. The branch manager had to speak to me and then he had to call head office to check changing my name was something they were allowed to do. We spent about 20 minutes discussing it all but eventually it got sorted out.
Surnames seem to matter more to the older generation and I am seen as someone who has broken tradition – but look at the Queen. I had to do a Life in the UK Test to get my citizenship in 2000 and one of the questions was about Elizabeth II keeping her surname, Windsor, while Prince Philip dropped his paternal name and changed it to his mother’s, Mountbatten. A lot of British people don’t know that.
It isn’t the first time I have changed my name. My first name is actually Terrence, Wayne is my middle name, but when I immigrated over to the UK in 2000 I quickly adopted Wayne because Terrence tended to be shortened by British people to Terry, and I didn’t like it. My dad said it upsets him that he can’t call me TW (Terrence Wayne) any more. We don’t talk much but he tends to bring it up whenever we do.
My father-in-law says he is really proud of me and what a nice thing it was for me to do that for his daughter. I’m sorry it has upset my own family, but I don’t regret my decision.

“I absolutely live for filling in the Maiden Name box”

Wyn Tingley (né Davies): My wife Katy and I got married in 1989, when a husband taking a wife’s name was completely alien. For me it was about keeping my wife’s surname, Tingley, going. I was a Davies, a pretty common Welsh name, and keeping it just never seemed important to me. In fact, it has been several decades since I’ve given that decision any thought.
We knew we didn’t want to have different names and we weren’t keen to double-barrel. We did very briefly contemplate merging our names and becoming Dangleys. I never actively told my family and I think they assumed we were double-barrelling our names. After the honeymoon it gradually leaked out.
My brother and sister found it all particularly odd. Because my parents had divorced by then, there was some comment about me disowning the family by cutting off the name. It certainly wasn’t the case that I was ashamed to be a Davies, but I was excited to be doing something different. In the end I retained Davies as a middle name, and gave our son Davies as a middle name too.
Apart from changing my name, the wedding was quite a traditional one. We got married in a village hall decorated by our families and our trip from the church was in a horse and carriage. My crowd were from Wales and the north-west of England – Katy’s were from Surrey. Our very different families seemed to get along, but it was very much tinnies [of beer] versus champagne flutes on the top table.
I started using my new name straight away – it felt odd, a little bit “naughty” perhaps and it was definitely strange practising a new signature. But it was a novelty that turned into a rude awakening as banks, the passport office and driving licence authorities made a bigger deal out of it than I had imagined. When I walked into the bank and explained why I’d like to change my name their first response was: “Wait, what? But why?” I had to get a deed poll and “live with the name” for two years before my bank would officially recognise me as Mr Tingley.
I have always been very single-minded and I absolutely live for filling in the Maiden Name box on forms. Once you’re aware of it you realise just how much the need to fill in a maiden name crops up. I now work in pharmaceuticals and go to lots of conferences, where there are always registration forms and inevitable security questions, including questions about previous names. I have ended up being put in an all-women session on more than one occasion because, combined with having a maiden name to declare, they think my first name, Wyn, is a woman’s name.
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Wyn Tingley is chair of Clifton Rugby Club and Katy is a fourth official
As for Katy, she stills thinks it’s a “sweet thing” to have done and I think she would reject any suggestion that it was because she wears the trousers.
Sometimes when we book into hotels the receptionist will automatically turn to Katy and ask for her maiden name. She gets a kick out of replying, “Tingley”. It’s funny how normal it seems to take your husband’s name but not the other way around.
We are 53 and 52 now and we’ve still never known of any other couples who have done the same as us. I wonder if it is an age thing – people over 35 are potentially more traditional in their views and upbringing. By contrast, our 20 year-old son doesn’t give it a single thought.
Despite the administration headaches and the occasional stupid comment, I don’t regret it one bit and would have done anything to make my wife happy. It was no sacrifice and it is a real pleasure to be Mr Tingley.
As told to Kirstie Brewer
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Trump says Kim meeting is 'in the making' despite concerns

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Media captionKim Jong-un and Donald Trump: From enemies to frenemies?
President Trump has tweeted that a deal with North Korea is “very much in the making”, a day after revealing he had agreed to meet its leader Kim Jong-un.
The North has yet to make a statement on the meeting, announced by the South.
Earlier, the White House said the meeting would not take place unless Pyongyang took “concrete actions”.
US media report that Mr Trump made the decision to meet without consulting key figures in his administration, who are now scrambling to catch up.
No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.
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  • The political gamble of the 21st Century

Mixed messages

Mr Trump stunned observers when he agreed to the summit following an invitation delivered by South Korean envoys.
Confusion mounted when Mr Trump’s own press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters that North Korea has “promised to denuclearise”. She added: “We’re not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions.”
The top US diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was on his first official trip to Africa when the announcement was made.
He told reporters on Friday the decision to meet Mr Kim was one “the president took himself”.
“I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision and we had a very good conversation,” Mr Tillerson added.
On Saturday, Mr Tillerson cancelled all his official events in Kenya with aides saying the secretary was “not feeling well after a long couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea”.
South Korean envoys – who recently met with Mr Kim in Pyongyang – have said North Korea is “committed to denuclearisation” as an end goal, but they have not said this would start before a meeting with the US.
Instead, North Korea is understood to have agreed to halt its testing programme as negotiations continue.
US Vice-President Mike Pence has pledged to maintain pressure on North Korea, and Mr Trump spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Friday to agree to maintain sanctions for the time being.
Chinese state media said the meeting resulted from Chinese efforts, with the Communist Party’s newspaper the People’s Daily saying the US “profusely thanked and put high importance on China’s important role”.
There has been no mention of any meeting in North Korean media.
An initial statement from the South Korean delegation said the meeting would take place by May – but no place or date has officially been set.
The Korean border’s demilitarised zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as possible venues.

How did we reach this point?

Kim Jong-un unexpectedly used his New Year’s message to reciprocate a offer of talks made by the South last year. This led to North Korea sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South.
After the Games, Then, South Korean envoys met Mr Kim in Pyongyang this week. The envoys then travelled to Washington to brief Mr Trump.
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Media captionThe South’s Chung Eui-yong talks to reporters at the White House
Speaking outside the White House after the meeting, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said Mr Kim was prepared to sit down with the US president and was now “committed to denuclearisation”.
In a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Mr Kim would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the East Asia region”.
  • How to talk to the world’s most secretive country
  • What could happen now?
However, the North has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded, analysts say.
Some expressed concern the Trump regime could “fall into the North Korean trap” of granting concessions with nothing tangible in return.
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Media captionFormer British ambassador to N Korea warns of dangers of Trump/Kim meeting

Eastern Ghouta: Syrian army splits enclave in three, reports say

Destroyed streets in rebel-held Douma, Eastern Ghouta
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Image caption

Douma, the biggest town in Eastern Ghouta, is said to be cut off by Syrian government forces
The Syrian army has made a significant advance in its effort to take rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, reports say.
Troops have cut off the region’s biggest town, Douma, and isolated another, according to UK-based conflict monitors the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The advance would effectively split the region into three parts.
The Syrian government began a major offensive last month to re-take Eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus.
Since then they have reportedly taken control of half of the region, in an advance that is thought to have left more than 900 civilians dead.
The UN has called the bombardment “unacceptable”, saying it amounts to “the collective punishment of civilians”.
The military has been accused of targeting civilians, but it says it is trying to liberate the region – one of the last rebel strongholds – from those it terms terrorists.

What’s happening on the ground?

A clear strategy of the Syrian government’s offensive in Eastern Ghouta has been to divide the enclave into isolated sections and so cut off rebel support and supply networks, the BBC’s Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher says – and now the government appears to have all but achieved that goal.
The Syrian government has reportedly captured the central town of Misraba, and advanced onwards into surrounding farmland.
Misraba is located along a major road that links Douma, in the north, with another big town, Harasta, in the west.
If confirmed, the advance leaves the enclave divided into three – Douma and its surrounding towns in the north, western Harasta, and the rest of the territory in the south.
Syrian state television also said the army had splinted Eastern Ghouta, but a spokesman for one of the main rebel groups told Reuters neither Harasta nor Douma were cut off.
Meanwhile an opposition website said that a group of fighters from the jihadists Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) arrived in central Hama province from Eastern Ghouta, a day after an evacuation deal was reached.
On Friday a UN convoy was able to successfully deliver aid to Eastern Ghouta, after previous deliveries were halted by shelling.
Some 400,000 people are still thought to live in the area, seven years into Syria’s civil war. It has been besieged by government forces since 2013.

Who are the rebels?

The rebels in Eastern Ghouta are not one cohesive group. They encompass multiple factions, including jihadists, and in-fighting between them has led to past losses of ground to the Syrian government.
The two largest groups are Jaish al-Islam and its rival Faylaq al-Rahman. The latter has in the past fought alongside HTS.
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Media captionA short guide to the Syrian civil war
Eastern Ghouta is so close to Damascus that it is possible for rebels to fire mortars into the heart of the capital, which has led to scores of civilian deaths.
The Syrian government is desperate to regain the territory, and has said its attempts to recapture it can be attributed directly due to the HTS presence there. HTS was excluded from a ceasefire agreed at the UN that has yet to come into effect.
The group is an alliance of factions led by the Nusra Front, which sprang from al-Qaeda.
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Syrian state media showed what it described as rebel fighters being evacuated from Eastern Ghouta

What else is happening in Syria?

In January, Turkey began an offensive to oust the Kurdish YPG militia from the Afrin region in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.
Turkish troops, and some allied Syrian rebel militias, are now on the outskirts of Afrin town, the SOHR says.
Both the SOHR and an embedded news agency reporter said that Turkish forces had captured a military base from Kurdish groups and were seen taking heavy machine guns out, while exchanging fire with Kurdish fighters.
Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group and says it is linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought an insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.
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  • How historical Afrin became a prize worth a war
Kurdish media report that Turkish forces have blown up public water facilities, cutting off drinking water supplies to hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops could enter the town “at any moment”. He said they would “purge” the town and then carry on further east.

Cafe Rouge owner reports £60m loss as sector struggles

Steak and chips
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Casual Dining Group
The owner of High Street food chains Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia has posted a sharp increase in losses, as the UK restaurant sector comes under pressure.
Casual Dining Group said losses to May 2017 increased 18% to £60m, despite a 2.2% rise in like-for-like sales.
It said it had faced challenging conditions “due to consumer confidence levels and the broader impact on discretionary spending”.
The firm also said it had seen a “significant” rise in costs.
These cost increases included:
  • The introduction of the National Living Wage and associated increases to it and the National Minimum Wage
  • The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and increased Employer’s Pension Contributions
  • Food and drink cost inflation driven by the devaluation of the pound
  • Revaluation of business rates and rent increases, particularly in central London
The £60m loss included an exceptional cost of £24.4m related to additional financing arranged during the financial year.
Total sales for the year were £329m, up 10% due to new site openings and sales growth from existing sites.

Business rate threat

Casual Dining is one of the UK’s largest restaurant groups, employing more than 10,000 people across 300 locations.
The group said it had opened seven new UK sites in the past nine months, and planned further expansion, with 17 new international openings scheduled for 2018, as well as further new UK openings and refurbishments.
Its chief executive Steve Richards is one of a number of restaurant bosses who have written to the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, ahead of Tuesday’s Spring Statement, calling for a dedicated minister to represent the industry and to work on a plan for growth.
“Our business, along with many others operating in the hospitality sector up and down the country, is set to be saddled with inflation-busting business rate hikes next month,” he said.
And he added that “high business rates stifle the sector’s growth potential and ability to create more jobs”.
A string of chains including Jamie’s Italian and Byron have closed outlets recently amid financial difficulties.
Earlier this month pizza chain Prezzo became the latest to cut back, closing 94 outlets. That amounted to about a third of its outlets and included all of its TexMex chain Chimichanga.
Barbecoa, a smaller chain also owned by Jamie Oliver, went into administration last month, while Italian chain Carluccio’s has called in accountants KPMG to advise on possible strategies to cut costs.