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Strictly's Goodman pays tribute to Bluewater road casualty

PUBLISHED: 09:53 06 January 2011

Len Goodman

Len Goodman

Archant

Strictly Come Dancing’s Len Goodman paid tribute to his ‘utterly charming’ friend and assistant who died when his car smashed in to another vehicle which is thought to have been travelling in the wrong direction.

Eric Haylett, 75, of Northdown Road, Longfield, was killed on New Year’s Day after the smash on the B255 dual-carriageway outside Bluewater shoppping centre at about 10.40pm.

Tragically his death came a day after his wife Alwena, who was being cared for at a nursing home, lost her battle against Alzheimers.

Clearly shaken Mr Goodman, of Ingress Park, Greenhithe, who owns Goodmans School of Dance in Dartford, said: “Eric was an utterly charming, lovely man. “He’d been coming down to the studio for the best part of 20 years, first as a student and then as an assistant. One of the pupils called us up to let us know, and it was such a shock. It still is really.”

The affable television star, who is head judge on the British and American version of the hit BBC show, said the pair were very popular at the dance school that he founded in the 1970s, adding: “It is so tragic - they were such a lovely couple.

“Eric was a marvellous dancer, very well dressed and as fit as a fiddle, as was Alwena, until she got poorly. He kept very active and even took up keyboard so he could play at the nursing home in Longfield where Alwena was.

“He was so in love with her, he visited her twice a day at the home and I’m sure he must have been absolutely heartbroken when she passed away.”

Mr Haylett was a tailor by trade and his wife a seamstress. Bertie Bassam, who had been their neighbour for more than 50 years, recalled how Mrs Haylett would mend and repair clothes for people throughout their community.

The 81-year-old, who has served as a councillor for 35 years at parish, borough and county level, said: “He was like a brother to me. He was such a lovely man - he’d do anything for anyone and so would Alwena.

“I just can’t get it out of my head that they both died so close to each other - it’s tragic.”

The couple are survived by three children, Amanda, Tracy and Susan, all of whom Mr Bassam believes to be in their 40s and with children, apart from Susan.

Kent Police confirmed initial reports suggest a red Jeep was travelling the wrong way along the dual carriageway when it collided with Mr Haylett’s blue Rover. Mr Haylett died at the scene and the man driving the Jeep was taken to Darent Valley Hospital where he remains with serious injuries.

No one else was involved in the incident.

Contact Kent Police’s Serious Crash Investigation Unit on 01622 798 538 with information.

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