Elderly driver 'gave up' licence following fatal A47 crash, court hears

PUBLISHED: 14:58 07 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:58 07 August 2018

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd.

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd.

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An elderly driver accused of causing the death of his travelling companion in a crash on the A47 said he could not say whether he lost consciousness or fell asleep at the wheel.

Leonard Birtles, 91, was driving back home after a holiday in Great Yarmouth, when the accident happened on July 12, 2015 near the Hardwick roundabout at King’s Lynn.

Norwich Crown Court has heard that Birtles’ Mercedes car collided with a Ford Fiesta before hitting a Mitsubishi Shogun and ending up in a ditch.

Birtles’ 85-year-old long-term travelling companion Joan Jackson, who was a front-seat passenger in the car, died from the injuries she received while Birtles was not badly injured in the collision, receiving a cut to his nose.

Birtles, of Chichester Road, Cleethorpes, has denied causing the death by careless driving of Ms Jackson and has gone on trial via a video link from Grimsby.

The jury of nine women and three men heard Birtles give evidence via videolink on Tuesday.

Responding to defence barrister Ian Bridge, Birtles confirmed that he had been driving since 1950 and had no points on his licence.

When asked to recall the crash he said: “I was driving along in a line of traffic, maybe 40ft to 50ft back.

“The next thing I remember I think I felt a bump. I immediately saw the grill of a 4x4 and then there was the impact.

“The next thing I knew I was in a ditch.”

The court heard that in interview Birtles had told police he had not felt tired prior to the crash.

But he later told officers that he could not say whether asleep or lose consciousness at the time of the incident.

When asked about this by Lindsay Cox, prosecuting, during cross examination, he said: “I don’t know, I can’t honestly say.”

He went onto tell the court that he did not know how the crash occurred.

He said: “All I know is that I was driving along and then saw the grill of the 4x4.

“I don’t know what caused it, that’s why I’ve given my licence up.

“I don’t know what caused it and wasn’t going to risk it happening again.”

Before the defence case started the court also heard from PC Paul McKay who had been involved in investigating the crash.

Mr Cox put it to him that among the conclusions highlighted the most likely explanation for the crash was a“period of prolonged inattention by Mr Birtles whether as a result of distraction or he had gone to sleep.”

PC McKay said: “That’s correct sir.”

The trial continues.

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