Pictured: Ashleigh Petrie, 23
The tradie who ran over a young law clerk when she jumped in front of his car after her affair with a 71-year-old magistrate was revealed feels haunted by her, even though he never saw her alive.
Not only does he relive the crash, but a 'cold' and 'emotionless' note sent to him by her lover Magistrate Robert Higgins, 71, after her death still baffles him.
Moments after Daniel Macklin's brand new Toyota RAV4 ploughed into 23-year-old Ashleigh Petrie's body on Metung Road in eastern Victoria at 1am on October 9, 2019, he got out of the car and immediately tripped on her mangled remains.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'A girl popped out of the middle of nowhere. Not just popped out, she ran,' he told The Age in his first ever interview on Saturday.
The 33-year-old called an ambulance and waited, trying desperately to quell growing fears that the body beneath the vehicle was his partner girlfriend - they were wearing similar clothes.
He spotted her handbag sitting on the opposite side of the road, dived into it and retrieved a phone - the screen lit up with a photo of the woman with an older man, neither of whom he recognised.
That man was Mr Higgins, who Ms Petrie had been dating and living with for four months after he left his wife for her, and was recently engaged.
Pictured: Daniel Macklin, who hit and killed Ashleigh Petrie when she ran in front of his Toyota
Miss Petrie is pictured with Mr Higgins, who proposed to her in September 2019 after a whirlwind romance
Mr Macklin later cleared a police drug and alcohol test, before a detective told him there was nothing he could have done to avoid her, and added: 'I don't want you watching the news. This girl's well known.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Ms Petrie, who worked as a clerk, had been in the headlines for weeks over her affair with Victorian magistrate Mr Higgins, who was married and 68 years old at the time.
Their relationship sparked a media frenzy due to the 45-year age gap, and potential power imbalances between high-ranking officials and staffers within the judicial system - even though Ms Petrie never framed her relationship with Higgins as abusive in any way.
The media attention reached boiling point when Higgins popped the question to Ms Petrie on a holiday in Fiji.
Hours later, she gushed on Instagram about her husband-to-be - flashing her newly bedazzled finger to all her followers with the caption: 'I said yes.'
About a month later, she launched herself in front of Mr Macklin's car and changed his life forever.
'There are not many days that I don't think about her,' he told The Age.
'I never knew her, but I feel like she's like a little sister. I'll always be connected with her.'
Mr Higgins proposed in 2019 during a romantic holiday in Fiji. Pictured: The couple on holiday
Magistrate Rodney Higgins proposed to his girlfriend Ashleigh Petrie, 23, in September. She is pictured right and left with her ring
He knows Ms Petrie's death was not his fault, but still feels responsible.
After her death, reports about her mental health began to emerge.
Ms Petrie was diagnosed as bipolar at 19, struggled with alcoholism, had a history of dating men who were