A YEAR ago, father-of-two Joe Wilkins set out on an 18-mile evening cycle ride from his home in Eynsham to Appleton.

But he never returned, dying in a collision with a car in Eaton Road, near Appleton.

On Friday night, a year to the day, his partner Nicci Saunders and about 50 of their friends completed the ride he had started 12 months ago.

When Miss Saunders announced her plan to commemorate the anniversary of Mr Wilkins’s death on Facebook, many of their friends asked to take part.

“It started out as a five-mile ride, finishing Joe’s ride from Appleton back to Eynsham for him,” she said. “But then someone said they would like to do the whole ride.”

Mr Wilkins, 39, was cycling on a circualr route he had taken twice previously the same week to prepare for a Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride.

Before setting out from the centre of Eynsham on Friday, Miss Saunders said: “I’m feeling every emotion possible.”

The cyclists rode to The Plough pub in Appleton, and then walked along the stretch of road where Mr Wilkins was killed, at roughly the time as the fatal collision.

“There’s still that element of fear,” said Miss Saunders. “We’ll be at the crash site at the time that it happened.”

School friend Jon Denton, 44, was one of those who joined the ride. He said: “Joe was a village boy through and through, a fantastic guy.”

Michael Berry, 40, said: “He was a lovely bloke, the ultimate athlete and always a good laugh.”

Miss Saunders and Mr Wilkins first met as five-year-old pupils at Eynsham Primary School, which their six-year-old daughter Kyra now attends.


Miss Saunders, 40, said she liked him straight away.

She added: “He was just one of those loveable boys.

“I put a note in his drawer asking him to marry me, but I didn’t sign it, and it wasn’t until years later I told him it was from me.”

The pair went their separate ways after school, only to meet up again later in life.

Mr Wilkins persuaded Miss Saunders to join the fire service.

The couple had two children, Kyra and three-year-old Cory.

As well as serving as a retained firefighter at Eynsham fire station, Mr Wilkins worked for Siemens Magnet Technology at its factory on the edge of the village, and in his spare time he loved skydiving, motorbikes and walking.

l Paul Brown, 30, of Oxford Road, Eynsham, has been charged with causing Mr Wilkins’s death by dangerous driving.

His trial is due to start at Oxford Crown Court on August 5.