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Woman in court battle with rail operator after losing both legs under a train

Diana Morgan-Hill on holiday in Greece before her accident Photo: Family photo

Diana Morgan-Hill was 29 and running her own company, with her future before her. Then, one fateful day 25 years ago, her life changed forever when she lost both legs after falling underneath a train in south London.

And her ordeal didn't end there. Only a week after the accident, while she was still in hospital under heavy sedation, British Rail announced it was intending to take Diana to court. Using a 100-year-old by-law, they wanted to prosecute her for trespassing on the railway line.

It was the start of a five-year struggle for Diana, who was certain the train had been stationary when she attempted to board.

She said: "My fight with what was then British Rail was worse even than losing my legs."

Diana in a wheelchair in hospital recovering from her injuries Credit: Sven Arnstein

Before her accident in August 1990, Diana had a busy social life and was running her own PR company. The evening her life changed forever she was on her way to see a friend for dinner and went to catch a train at Wandsworth Common station.

She said: "I had seen from the footbridge that my train was coming in to the station, so I went down the stairs. The train door was slightly open, they were the old-fashioned type you had to open yourself. They don't use them anymore, my accident and ones like it is one of the reasons they changed them.

"I opened the door. I was on the running board, both my feet were on the running board, and then the train moved off with a jolt. I fell down the gap [between the train and the platform]. I held my arms aloft, the train carried on moving. It started to pick up speed, a gap appeared between the carriages, my right leg was caught up by the train wheel."

She was pulled under the train and lay injured on the tracks for 45 minutes. As she waited for paramedics, she was comforted by a passenger named Maggie.

Diana said: "She was an angel. There was terrible moment when I had almost been electrocuted, twice. They had to switch the train off and then switch it on to move it. I had had enough by then, I just couldn't bear it. She saw that I was giving up the fight and she said 'Diana, please take my hand'. I did and turned towards her."

She added: "I could have been a conductor for the electricity. Taking my hand was such a courageous, brave thing to do. [...] She took my hand and she came with me in the ambulance. I don't recall too much about the ambulance, except that it was going very, very slowly. They thought I had broken my back as well."

She was taken to St George's Hospital in Tooting for surgery. She was given 12 pints of blood and was in intensive care for three days.

When she came round, her sister Helen had devastating news. She had seen newspaper reports that British Rail was intending to to take legal action against Diana over the incident.

So as she learnt to live without her legs, she also needed to prepare for a court battle.

Diana with her friend Katie and Katie's son Billy, while learning to walk with prosthetic legs, at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton Credit: Family photo

After 11 days, she was moved to Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, for specialist rehabilitation treatment. She was there for six months and had four further operations to stabilise her right knee and eventually learned to walk again.

She said: "It was gruelling beyond measure. We learn to walk when we are toddlers, and obviously I had to learn to do it all over again."

In 1991, she met and fell in love with David Morgan. In 1993, their daughter Lara was born and the couple married a year later.

Diana and David on their wedding day, with daughter Lara as a bridesmaid Credit: Family photo

Walking during her pregnancy had its own challenges. She said: "When I became pregnant with my daughter Lara walking on prosthetics became more difficult and also when she was a baby and a toddler I had to use the wheelchair."

Two years after the accident, a judge had decided that British Rail was 70 per cent to blame for what had happened. They said the guard had not applied the emergency brake in time and hadn't shouted a warning. The judge ruled that Diana was 30 per cent to blame.

Following the ruling, British Rail argued her compensation claim was overstated.

She said: "It was a split procedure, the first hearing in the High Court was on liability and second one wasn't until 1995 for the amount of compensation awarded. They made me suffer all over again by drowning us in paperwork. We settled on the steps of the court. Their first offer had been an electric wheelchair and some walking sticks."

Finally in 1995, the rail operator paid Diana £634,000 in compensation.

Diana wheelchair dancing with Boris Johnson Credit: Family photo

She hasn't stopped moving since. A wheelchair tennis athlete, she has also been a finalist with dance partner Mark Foster, in the television contest Dancing On Wheels. She danced again at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in 2012, and as CEO of the Limbless Association she has helped young victims of the war in Iraq.

And 25 years after the accident, she is now telling her story in her memoir Love & Justice. You can hear more from Diana on ITV London Tonight at 6pm.