Court told of top cyclist's death

A pub landlord who knocked over and killed one of Britain's top cyclists while driving home after an overnight flight may have fallen asleep at the wheel, a jury heard yesterday .

A pub landlord who knocked over and killed one of Britain's top cyclists while driving home after an overnight flight may have fallen asleep at the wheel, a jury heard yesterday.

Norwich Crown Court was told how Donald Pearce veered in to Zak Carr on the A11 near Wymondham but claims he did not spot the "highly experienced" cyclist before the fatal crash.

Pearce, 49, who runs the Farmhouse pub in Colman Road, had not had an overnight sleep between leaving Turkey the night before, arriving at Stansted in the early hours and driving back to Norwich with his wife.

Mr Carr, 30, of Attleborough - one of the top three cyclists in the country - was riding to work in daylight at about 7.15am on October 17, 2005, and was wearing full Lycra cycling gear and a helmet.

John Farmer, prosecuting, told the jury that Pearce and his wife had been in Turkey for a fortnight's holiday and had landed at Stansted at 4am.

"He then gets in the car and drives and this is what happens," Mr Farmer said.

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"He is driving a car, having had no overnight sleep and no proper rest.

"He's dozed off, drifted and hit the cyclist.

"It may very well be that he's got his eyes closed, he hits the cyclist and wakes up."

The court heard Pearce later told police in interview that he did not see the cyclist until the last moment.

Mr Farmer read a witness statement from Mr Carr's father, Barry, who passed his son on the A11 just moments before the collision en route to a building job the pair were working on at Thorpe Marriott.

Barry Carr had watched his son head off from the parental home in Wymondham and his red rear light was "clearly visible" when he overtook him.

Pearce's wife, Deborah, said she and her husband set off from Stansted at about 5.45am and did not plan a break because Pearce "usually drives for hours".

She slept for the entire journey and only woke when she heard a bang and saw the windscreen was smashed and she was covered in glass.

Asked by Mr Farmer if her husband had ever given an explanation for hitting the cyclist, she said: "We keep things bottled up and get on with life because we've got a business to run.

"He cannot remember, all of a sudden he was there."

Laurence Bruce, defending, asked if she had any hesitation about her husband driving home, to which she replied: "no".

She agreed he was an extremely experienced and safe driver and he had been "badly affected" by the accident.

Giving evidence, lorry driver Antony Filby, who was on the A11 behind Pearce's Rover 220 immediately before the collision, said Mr Carr was cycling between the nearside carriageway and the verge and his rear light was on.

"The next moment, this car didn't swerve, it just veered in to left.

"It was all over in a matter of seconds… it was just like a nightmare."

Witnesses who had all overtaken or were in the process of overtaking Mr Filby's lorry told the jury they were only aware of a cyclist when they saw a body and a bike being flung in the air.

Pearce denies causing Mr Carr's death by dangerous driving.

The trial continues.