Killer driver took cocktail of drugs

JON WELCH A “criminally reckless” father-of-three took a cocktail of drugs before losing control of his car, killing himself and a motorcyclist, an inquest heard today.

JON WELCH

A “criminally reckless” father-of-three took a cocktail of drugs before losing control of his car, killing himself and a motorcyclist, an inquest heard today.

Lee Stimpson, 33, took heroin, cocaine, cannabis, methadone, morphine and the sedative Diazepam before setting out in the car with

two of his sons, aged four and five, tests showed.

Cannabis resin and an ampoule of yellow liquid were found in the vehicle.

Earlier that day a concerned motorist reported Mr Stimpson to the police after seeing him driving dangerously.

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Mr Stimpson, of Barrett Road, Lakenham, Norwich, lost control of the burgundy Peugeot 309 GTi outside the Dunston Hall hotel on the A140 just south of Norwich on December 16 last year, hitting motorcyclist Robert Key, 23.

Both men were pronounced dead at the scene, and Mr Stimpson's sons Toby and Joshua were injured.

Eye-witness Dr Salehuddin Samsudin told the inquest in Norwich he saw Mr Stimpson's car travelling south, negotiating a right-hand bend outside the hotel at about 8.25pm, and estimated it was travelling at more than 60mph before crashing into Mr Key and his motorcycle.

“I was watching it very closely. I was concerned about my safety because of the speed he was travelling,” he said.

Mr Key, of Hempnall, was leaving the hotel on his Honda 125cc motorcycle and waiting to pull out onto the A140 when he was struck by the car.

Police crash investigator Pc Martin Barker calculated Mr Stimpson was travelling at about 66mph in a 40mph zone. Mr Key had been in control of his motorcycle and there were no faults with either vehicle, he said.

Sara Clarke said she had been driving on the A140 from Long Stratton to Norwich at about 11.55am on the day of the accident when Mr Stimpson's car overtook her.

It then overtook another two or three cars even though it was unsafe to do so, causing oncoming traffic to swerve, she said.

She then saw it turn into a lay-by at Saxlingham Thorpe, crashing into a mobile snack bar.

“I said to my husband 'That was very erratic driving. We need to report it to the police because that will cause an accident later.” Mr Clarke telephoned the police.

Paul Tunmore was serving in the snack bar when the car struck it. Mr Stimpson apologised, telling him, “I have just got this car and I went to hit the brakes but hit the throttle.”

He then bought a burger and a cup of tea, paying Mr Tunmore £30 or £35 to cover any damage to his van.

“He was steady on his feet. He looked OK - a bit agitated but I assumed that was because he had had the accident,” said Mr Tunmore.

Mr Stimpson's partner Marie Body said he had been to collect his sons from their mother's house in Long Stratton, before taking them out for the day with her own children Jordan and Chloe.

He returned home at about 4.30pm and smoked a joint before taking the boys back to their mother's. “I was aware Lee smoked cannabis and tolerated this. I remember Lee also smoked a joint that morning,” said Miss Body, who added that she did not know he took other drugs.

“Lee was in good spirits when he left and I looked forward to his return.”

Coroner William Armstrong recorded that both Mr Stimpson and Mr Key had died as a result of a road traffic collision, which he said was a “needless and wholly avoidable tragedy”.

He said: “I shall not use the term 'accidental death' because if ever there was a case to demonstrate the inappropriateness of the term 'accident' this was it.

“This was no accident. Two people died and the lives of others put at risk as a result of one man's criminally reckless conduct.

“The evidence provided by Mr and Mrs Clarke and Mr Tunmore shows the incident which led to these deaths did not arise from the activities of a man who was subject to a momentary aberration or from an isolated lapse of judgement.

“This was a man persistently driving in a grossly reckless fashion with complete disregard for his own safety; that of other road users and, what is most horrendous of all, disregard for his own children.”