Norfolk death crash driver cleared of failing to provide breath specimen

The grief-stricken driver of a car in which a Wymondham soldier set to go to Afghanistan died has been cleared of failing to provide a breath specimen but convicted of not providing a blood sample for analysis following the tragic accident.

Norwich Magistrates' Court heard how Daniel James Wilkinson, 24, was devastated at the death of his best friend L/Cpl Joe Rix, 22, from Wymondham, who was a front-seat passenger, and the tragedy left him needing the help of a mental health nurse for a year after the incident.

When he learned of his friend's death Wilkinson said: 'I'm a murderer. I've killed a brother, a son, an uncle and a best friend.'

Wilkinson, of Keeling Way, Attleborough, crashed a Honda Civic after careering into a verge on the B1172, near Wymondham, at 4.30am on October 17, 2009 and claimed a deer had run in front of the car.

The court heard that Wilkinson failed to complete a roadside breath test and was complaining of chest pains and also had a broken wrist from smashing the car window to help his friend.

He was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but when he found out his friend had died he was in a 'highly distressed' state, banging his head and hands against the floor, and refused to give a blood sample, despite having given permission earlier.

Ian Fisher, defending Wilkinson, said the extreme trauma, and the possibility of acute stress disorder, could be the reason for his actions. Wilkinson claimed he had been unable to do the initial breath test because of chest pains and said he had been taking antibiotics for a chest infection.

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He described finding out about his friend's death as 'being in a nightmare. It was just utter devastation, and I don't think there are words to describe it.'

Wilkinson was cleared of failing to provide a breath test but convicted of failing to provide a blood specimen and was given a 12 month driving ban and �500 fine. He was also ordered to pay �250 towards prosecution costs and a �15 surcharge.

District judge Philip Browning expressed his sympathy to Mr Rix's family and said: 'Nothing I say can change what has happened but I would like, even at this late stage, to express the court's deepest sympathy to Joe's family and friends for their loss. Among those friends is, of course, Daniel Wilkinson and I recognise the traumatic and ongoing effect that Joe's death has had on him, for which he feels inexpressible remorse.'

He also made it clear that Wilkinson was not on trial for causing his friend's death and he had not shown any characteristics of drunkeness. He added: 'There is no evidence that the defendant would have been over the limit, but without the test, we shall never know.'

He said he accepted that because of the injury Wilkinson was not able to give a breath test but said that there was a stage at the hospital where he could have given a blood sample.