THE tragedy of Gay Wharton's death was devastating for her many friends and the community, but especially for her family.

Mrs Wharton's husband of 19 years, Stephen Wharton, explained the impact her loss has particularly had on him in a statement he read out in court before Judge John Potter sentenced her killers Assad Hussain and Wasim Iqbal.

Read below his words in full.

On that fateful day last November I was at work. It was a normal day. I had left early in the morning and said bye to her. I had messaged her to see if she was going out and she said she had to pop to the shops around lunchtime. I tried to call her on my way home and she didn't answer. What I didn't know was that by then, she had already been killed.

Two BMW X5 police vehicle past me on my way home and I thought there must be a chase on or something, the helicopter was up. I tried calling Gay to see where she was and there was no reply and I wondered where she was. I know now that they were on the way to Gay.

I then heard a knock at the door and I looked out of the window and saw a police vehicle. My first thought was, “have I got a speeding ticket or done something on my way home”. I opened the door and the officer said, “ Your wife has been involved in a collision on Chorley New Road”. My first thought was, “ Oh God, is she badly injured?” And he said: “I am so sorry to tell you but she died at the scene”.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing - I nearly fell to the floor, my legs went to jelly. It wouldn't register. I only spoke to her earlier, she had just popped out. I was asked if I wanted to see her and I had to make that difficult decision. I decided not to as I could picture her there and did not want to have to see her like that. They told me she had suffered a bad head injury and I knew it would be too hard to see her that way.

He had her wallet and bag and he asked if I had her passport. I suddenly couldn't remember where it was. She was due to go on holiday with her girlfriends so I knew she would have put it out somewhere. Everything was like a blur, it didn't feel real. The officer then shot off back to the scene as they needed to formally ID her.

READ MORE: Drivers jailed after killing former mayoress Gay Wharton

I just sat there and waited. I kept thinking she can't be dead. Was it wrong? was she just badly injured? I couldn't bear to call family or anything, I didn't know what to do. The officer came back and I had to complete reports and ID death statements.

That whole 24 hours was like a worst nightmare, a bad dream. I had gone out to work that morning and I never saw her again. I couldn't see her again for three weeks at the funeral directors. I had to pick out her favourite outfit and then went to see her.

Every day we have been married I would kiss her and say goodbye before I went out and I felt some comfort being able to see her and do that one last time.

The day after Gay was killed I went to the scene, to the crossing, with my sons to lay some flowers. It was surreal, I could not register what had happened. It didn't seem real. I pressed the button at the very crossing and was about to step across and a car ran the light and shot past me. I could not believe it - the day after my wife had been killed! I was so full of anger about what had happened. How someone could have done what they did and taken her away from me? How could he not have seen her and how could they knowingly drive so fast and dangerously and killed her? Not only that, but they didn't stop to see her or help her. They left her lying in the road. I just thought they just don't care, they didn't care what they did.

READ MORE: Live coverage of the sentence hearing

The weeks that followed were a blur. Whilst everyone else was celebrating Christmas with their families, I was sorting out funeral arrangements. Gay loved Christmas and she did a lot for our grandchildren and the community. She made chocolate cups for the children of a local refuge and she had got one of the mugs left to do. That day she was killed she had gone to get more bits for gifts for domestic abuse charities she helped. It was so important to do that for her - to finish what she had not been able to, because it was so important to Gay. So, I got the last item for it, wrapped it up like the rest and took them to the refuge as she would have done.

This was the thing with Gay, she was so well known and loved in the community - not just her time as the mayoress, but for all the work she did for charities and was a patron for the domestic abuse charity Fortalice. She had such a huge and positive impact on the lives of so many. Not just us, her family lost her that day, but everyone that had been touched by her kindness and selflessness. It left a whole community grieving. On International Woman's Day the Bolton community representative called me and said that they were honouring Gay and her contribution to everything she has done for the community and the mayor has also honoured her with an award and, when I am ready, I will go to receive that on her behalf.

The last seven months waiting for the trial have been some of the worst of my life. Life without Gay was just unbearable. I didn't know how to be Stephen Wharton without Gay Wharton - my best friend and life for 28 years, married for 19. We thrived together, and we made each other the people we were, the person I am today.

After the New Year was out the way and people had to get back to their own lives, I started to feel so alone and the realisation sunk in that this was my life now. The months that followed were some of my darkest. It is hard to say now, but there were times that I didn't want to go on, I couldn't see how I could and I really thought about whether to carry on living. Without the love and support of close friends I don't think I would have made it through to the trial. It was on my mind the whole time - whether we would get justice for Gay.And right up until the day of the trial itself, it was not a given it would happen. I am relieved that we do not have to go through the trauma of the actual trial and reliving that day, but I wish that we had not had to live these seven months with the worry of it.

To this day I cannot physically use that crossing on Chorley New Road. I cannot bear to be near that part of the road and avoided driving it in the early months, having to take a longer route to wherever I was going. Only recently I have been able to drive through the crossing and every time I do, I blow a kiss to Gay.

I regularly get flash backs of the incident and believe I am likely suffering from PTSD. I know that it will be a long road to heal from everything that we have been through. I still panic and think to myself, “did she see the car, did she hear it and know what was about to happen? Did she suffer”. These thoughts will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

And it hasn't just been me who has had to go through this. My two sons are now facing life without their mum, grandma to their three children. They were so close with her and they are trying to work out what their future looks without Gay.

Gay had so many close friends and colleagues who are grieving and feeling such a huge loss. Even now, people out in the community approach me and ask how I am and tell me about their memories of Gay.

It is safe to say that life will never been the same without Gay. My life ended that day and I now have to find my new place in the world without her, as have so many.

What happened that day should never have happened. Assad and Iqbal should never have been driving that day as they were and there is no excuse for what they have done. I want them to understand what the impact of their selfish decision and disregard for the speed and law has had on us. It could have been anyone on that crossing - anyone's child or even their own family. I want their sentences to reflect what they have done and, whilst it will not bring Gay back, I want to feel as though there has been some justice for what was such a senseless and preventable act. I would never want anyone else to have to go through what me and my family have had to go through - to literally live your very possible worst nightmare. I just hope that after today, we get some sense of closure and can start to move on.