Driver, 91, caused death of companion by drifting into path of two cars on A47, court hears

PUBLISHED: 17:12 06 August 2018

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd.

Norwich Crown Court. Picture Adrian Judd.

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An elderly driver caused the death of his travelling companion when he drifted onto the wrong side of the A47 and collided with two oncoming vehicles, a court heard.

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 heard that his Mercedes car collided with a Ford Fiesta before hitting a Mitsubishi Shogun and ending up in a ditch.

The Fiesta driver had tried to take evasive action but said there was little she could do to avoid a collision.

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.

Lindsay Cox, prosecuting, said that witnesses describe how Birtles had slowly veered onto the wrong side of the road and appeared to take no evasive action or reduce his speed moments before the collision.

Mr Cox said after the crash, drivers stopped to help at the scene and emergency services were called and Birtles was extremely concerned for the welfare of his passenger.

“He was anxious to assist when spoken to by the witnesses. It was clear the defendant could remember little of what happened before the crash.”

He said that he had been driving about 55mph when he had suddenly seen the other car and then he recalled ending up in a ditch.

Mr Cox said that Birtles told police he was diabetic but that was under control and did not remember feeling unwell or distracted while behind the wheel: “He could not account for the gap in his memory about moments before the crash.”

Mr Cox told the jury they may hear about a possible medical reason behind the accident but said the prosecution case was that his driving fell far below that of a competent driver.

He told the jury: “These are questions ultimately for you to determine.”

The trial continues.

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