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Leonard Pettifer sentencing adjourned after death of motorcyclist Michael Copelston

By Paul Hooper

The heartbroken widow of a hero police officer wept today after being told the man who killed him had avoided being sentenced...for a fourth time!

Pensioner Leonard Pettifer was at the wheel of his car when he drove the wrong way along the M20, causing the death of motorcyclist Michael Copleston.

Twice this week, Mrs Copleston had arrived at Canterbury Crown Court expecting 86-year-old Pettifer to be sentenced for his dangerous driving.

Mr Copleston was described as a devoted husband to his wife Pauline of 39 years

Mr Copleston was described as a devoted husband to his wife Pauline of 39 years

But after hearing by video link from a doctor that Pettifer, from Snargate Lane, Snargate risked a cardiac arrest if he attended the hearing, Judge Heather Norton reluctantly adjourned again for a fourth time.

But she told Pettifer’s barrister, that while she had a duty of care for the defendant, she still had “concerns that this court is somehow being manipulated”.

After the hearing Judge Norton told the widow: “I fully understand your distress..”

Mrs Copleston said: “My daughter has driven nine hours from Scotland with three children (to attend the hearing).

“I just can’t believe how he (Pettifer) keeps getting away with it. I’m on tablets, everybody’s on tablets..I just can’t believe this.

“To be frank, I don’t want to be here anymore. I’ve had enough. I lost my husband..to someone who should never have been driving in the first place because of his eyesight..

“My husband worked for the Metropolitan Police, training the Royal Protection squad for the Queen.

“ I had a letter of condolence from the (Scotland Yard’s) Commissioner and from the American Embassy where he  worked after retiring.

“He was an attache defence chauffeur and they had a minute’s silence. He was respected and I had a letter from the United States ambassador...my husband wasn’t just an ordinary person.

“Now I have lost my best friend, my husband and a grandfather..everything..and this person should be prosecuted. I just can’t believe it .”

A trio of police motorcyclists give former police bike instructor Michael Copleston an escort at his funeral in Hawkinge

A trio of police motorcyclists give former police bike instructor Michael Copleston an escort at his funeral in Hawkinge

The court heard how Pettifer, who admitted causing death by driving dangerously at an earlier hearing, had gone to see his GP just days before sentencing complaining of dizzy spells.

He will now undergo further medical tests to see what conditions he suffers from.

Mrs Copleston told the judge: “There are lots of people in their eighties in prison..why can’t this guy face up to his responsibilities..instead of going to the doctors at the last minute. Justice should be done.”

Pettifer had been driving his Ford Ka in November last year when it struck the 60 year old father-of-two, who lived with his wife in Hawkinge.

The pensioner had been visiting his wife in hospital where he had stayed for eight hours without eating

He then joined the M20 and realised he needed to go in the opposite direction but instead of exiting at the next junction...just did a ‘U’ turn in the outside carriageway.

Mr Copleston died after a collision with a car driving the wrong way on the M20 at Ashford

Mr Copleston died after a collision with a car driving the wrong way on the M20 at Ashford

 Judge Norton told Pettifer's lawyers: “He will be sentenced in August and I will not further adjourn this case unless he is in hospital.”

 And she added that she will be “deeply sceptical” if she is told that days before the next hearing Pettifer had attended his GP surgery complaining of ‘further symptoms’.

 

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