Sobs echoed around St Albans Crown Court as Wayne Hawes paid tribute to his “irreplaceable” wife Zoe.

Mrs Hawes was killed when violent criminal Barancan Nurcin ploughed into the Canvey couple’s car with a stolen van as he drove the wrong way around the M25 to evade police.

The pair had been on their way to Luton airport for a four-day holiday to mark Mrs Hawes’ 40th birthday.

After weeks in an induced coma with injuries he was lucky to survive, one of the first things Mr Hawes managed to do was ask after his wife.

Unable to speak, he did it by writing a Z on a pad.

In their own statements, relatives described the “harrowing” moment they had to tell him that “the love of his life” was dead.

“All I could do was shake my head,” Mr Hawes’ sister wrote of the moment her brother wrote the Z on the pad.

“He couldn’t make a sound.”

As tears rolled down her brother’s face, she wrote, “I knew I had broken his heart.”

They were among a series of victim impact statements so moving that even the prosecutor broke down crying as he read them aloud.

But one relative asked to read her own statement to the court.

Morgan Hawes - daughter of Mr Hawes and step-daughter of Mrs Hawes - described how short-term memory loss caused by Mr Hawes’ hospital drugs meant the family had to break the news of Mrs Hawes’ death over and over again.

It was “the most harrowing experience I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy,” she told the court.

“We had to relive the moment repeatedly. Each time, it felt like the first time for him.”

“He is now a shadow of his former self,” she said of her father. “The loss of his wife has been the loss of his entire world.”

Mr and Mrs Hawes Met in 2012, the court heard.

Each had three children when they became an item. They had another two together.

The couple ran a flooring business together, with him as the technician and her doing all the book-keeping.

Morgan Hawes recalled being told: “Mum is dead and your dad is in a coma.”

It felt like “a sick joke”, she said.

“The emotions were indescribable. Shock, fear and dread for the future overwhelmed me.”

On Mrs Hawes’ 40th birthday two days later, she told the court, “We hung up banners and blew up balloons to make the day as special as possible for all the children she left behind.”

In the video shot in his hospital room, Mr Hawes broke down crying the moment he was asked about his wife.

“She was irreplaceable,” he was eventually able to say. “She would do anything for the kids.”

He told police how he awoke from his coma with injuries to his neck, hip, spine and legs.

He had suffered a bleed on the brain and lost his sight in one eye.

He remains unable to drink from anything but a children’s sippy cup, prosecutor Mark Fenhalls KC said, and worries about whether he will ever be well enough to look after his children again.

But in the video Mr Hawes spoke of his desire to go back to work at the flooring shop he ran with his wife.

His mother described him as “the most hard-working man you could wish for”.

“Even if he’s incredibly busy, he will still help you,” she wrote, adding that he and Mrs Hawes “were at a time in their lives when everything was going brilliantly.”

“Your actions ended that dream of a life together,” she wrote to Nurcin.

“Your actions have destroyed the most wonderful family.”