New Year's Honours: Medal for Durham officer whose emotional campaign is making the roads safer

Natalie Horner has been recognised with the King's Police Medal in the New Year's Honours list. Credit: Durham Constabulary

A detective who led a campaign to get drivers to put down their mobile phones following a crash which killed three people has been honoured by the King.

Durham detective constable Natalie Horner has been recognised with the King's Police Medal in the New Year's Honours list.

The officer led the investigation into a crash on the A1(M) at Bowburn in County Durham in July 2021 which claimed three lives when a lorry driver ploughed into a queue of traffic while using his mobile phone at the wheel.

Elaine Sullivan, 57, and her partner David Daglish, 59, from Seaham, along with 51-year-old Paul Mullen, from Washington, all died in the crash.

Since the investigation, which led to lorry driver Ion Onut being jailed for eight years and ten months after pleading guilty to three counts of causing death by dangerous driving, DC Horner has campaigned to bring a positive change from the tragedy.

She oversaw the production of an emotional video which aims to persuade drivers to put down their mobile phones while behind the wheel; just one of a string of successful campaigns the 43-year-old has led over the last eight years.

Durham Police said the campaign had been partially responsible for a "significant decrease" in the number of serious and fatal crashes in County Durham and Darlington in the last year.

It is now used in driver training across the world.

She said: “The roads claim lives daily. It’s about more than convicting offenders; it’s about making our roads safer nationally. I want everyone in the UK to feel safe.”

She was nominated for the honour for her positive approach, her drive to help others and her dedication to the community.

Chief Constable Rachel Bacon, of Durham Constabulary, said: "This is a thoroughly well-deserved honour for Detective Constable Horner.

“I am immensely proud of the amazing work that Nat and her colleagues have done to make people safer on our roads and I have no doubt their forward-thinking campaigns have helped to save lives.

“She exemplifies the very best of Durham Constabulary: a willingness to put victims first and a genuine desire to make a real difference to real people”.

DC Horner, who joined the police in 2001, said the loss of her colleague Police Constable Jonathan Green in a crash had fuelled her commitment to improving support for affected families.

She said: “The loss was devastating. It made me realise the vital role we play in supporting those affected by road incidents. It's a responsibility we cannot overlook.”

On learning she would be recognised with the King's Police Medal, she added: “I’m overwhelmed and immensely grateful to receive this honour,

“It’s a proud and emotional moment I’ll never forget in my career.”

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